New York remains on lockdown while up to thirty states reopen in varying degrees. There are possibly 1000 strains of coronavirus and the experts learn something new on a regular basis. Dr. Donald James Alcindor at Meharry Medical College is working on an anti-viral drug to treat Covid-19. As of April 22, New York has lost 15,000 people. On 9/11 we lost 3,000 people by comparison. We are blessed that the outbreak occurred at the start of the growing season. Marc may return to work on May 16. Meanwhile he is a whirlwind of organization in the home. Empty shelves and lines outside stores is fairly anxiety producing, not to mention wearing masks, but here we are. Humanity learns a new way, but still tailgating and gloves and masks litter hiking trails. “Sigh,” but I am happy for the natural world, breathing, if only for a moment, a sigh of relief.
I haven’t written about A Farm for All! (AFFA) (www.farmforallny.org) where I have greenhouse space. My original purpose for volunteering at AFFA was greenhouse space. I had lost Groundwork in 2017 where I had greenhouse space and I was looking for a new project after serving seven years as Treasurer at the Beacon Sloop Club (www.beaconsloopclub.org). Initially, I offered to organize AFFA’s office for them in return for greenhouse space. My OCD makes for good filing skills. AFFA incorporated as a non-profit in 2015, but had not organized into a viable entity by 2017. After a few months of filing, I was asked to become Director.
I have spent my Horticulture/Agriculture career in non-profits - Brooklyn Botanic Garden (www.bbg.org), New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org) and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (www.stonebarnscenter.org). Then after seven years with the Beacon Sloop Club, it amounts to twelve years in the non-profit world. Stone Barns was a particularly great experience. Besides the great people, I was their within the first five years and able to witness the development of a non-profit. As I have mentioned, I’ve spent my life making it up as I go along (the way of Spirit), so stumbling upon AFFA has been quite the find. From my experience, I know the basic framework of a non-profit with four leadership positions - President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profits who pay their officers can have a series of Directors like Clearwater (www.clearwater.org). Beacon Sloop Club is an all volunteer organization and has the basic setup. With these officers a non-profit can function smoothly. I picked up a book Managing the Non-Profit by Peter F. Drucker to hone my skills. I quit college twice in my life being an experiential learner, not to mention I was not willing to go into debt for an education especially after finding out that the CUNY system in New York was free up until 1970. Of course now student loans are a debt crisis in American. Who knew?
According to Drucker, non-profits “exemplify and fulfill the fundamental American commitment to responsible citizenship in the community.” We are in service to community. Non-profits bridge the gap when government refuses to serve its people. Power to the people! who are always resilient and innovative when it comes to serving our communities. In return to Spirit for not having children, I have been in service to my community. Being child free allows for freedom, the one consistent mantra in my life and in that freedom I like to give back.
I start seeds April 1, hardy crops like Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae) and Borage (Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae). I continue to start seeds (propagation) on a weekly basis. Last Spring we had April Showers (60 - 70º), but then the showers kept going through May. I had trouble with easy crops like Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) and Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae). This season I wanted to wait for warmer weather and sunshine. We had showers in April this season, but 50 - 60º temperatures. I continued with Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae), although the seed is from 2012. I haven’t found any information on seed viability. Seeds from herb to vegetable last anywhere from 2 - 4 years. I like to collect seed and the Milk Thistle seed is from my crop in 2012.
I have my immediate Family of Herb Plants in the ground after three years and am now moving into my Experimental Family. As well as the greenhouse, I start seeds on my deck at home. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae) is tricky to get established, but once so very resilient. I focus on native plants and my work is restorative. Native plants have been overrun by invasives from Europe and especially Asia. I am hard pressed to imagine what the landscape looked like with our delightful natives. Imagine stumbling upon Pleurisy Root while hiking in the woods? Lovely orange flowers.
Echinacea, Pleurisy Root (Asclepius tuberosa, Asclepiadaceae) and Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Apocynaceae) all have to be cold stratified, which means to plant in a tray and place in the refrigerator, in this case seven days, ten days and fourteen days respectively. I have seen Pleurisy Root once and I have never seen Red Milkweeed. I planted Red Milkweed at SDG in 2016 and all of a sudden this season there is a giant stand in the garden. I may have looked for her in 2017 and 2018, but never saw anything. I understand the natives to be very sensitive, but again once established, very resilient. Red Milkweed likes wet areas and all of a sudden in the same area for the past two seasons is Horsetail (Equisetum arvense, Equisetaceae) an ancient plant dating back to the dinosaur era! Perhaps Red Milkweed and Horsetail are companion plants? Truly, there is no end to the wonder of plants. So right for my short attention span. It is said that even if one could learn all the plants in the world, by the time one did, they will have mutated into something else.
Borage, Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Europe
The flowers have been used to decorate salads and cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves are full of minerals and the leaf and flower can be infused to make a tonic for the adrenal glands to treat stress and depression. I like to eat the flower while I’m in the garden. They give me a nice lift.
Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, Asteraceae, Turtle Island
Experts have gone back and forth stating Echinacea is anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral, but today it is generally accepted that Echinacea is both. Susun Weed offers Echinacea as a preventative for Covid-19 to boost the immune system. I have used Echinacea tincture for toothache. I am still waiting for my thirty foot bed of Echinacea to make tincture.
Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum, Asteraceae, Southern Europe, Asia
Milk Thistle tincture is a labor of love because it is made out of the seeds from the prickly flower head. Thankfully, we only have to fill the jar a third full to make the tincture. Milk Thistle is liver support. Take a dropperful before you head out to the bar or party to protect the liver. I have been taking Milk Thistle tincture along with Dandelion Tincture for formication, a condition I have here in menopause, which is incessant itching due to an overworked liver processing extra hormones. I am also a drinker and I have learned that drinking exacerbates the condition, not to mention hot flashes. Look at that sweet splash of white on the leaves!
Covid-19 has shown us, for me, how we ought to live. Days should be spent with our loved ones doing what we find enjoyable. My life has not changed with the exception of Marc being home. The Simple Life is Human 101 and once the trappings of the Establishment fall away, we find food, shelter and water being the basics and a day spent procuring these basic needs is enough.