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.
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.