I have planted Kale, Beets, Corn and Cabbage. It's late and my Tomatoes and Peppers are still quite small, but I will get Tomatoes in the ground here just before the Summer Solstice. Peppers, Mustard Mix, Parsley, Squash and Beans will follow. I didn't get Lavender and Wormwood from seed in the greenhouse, but I will try again in July on my deck for an Autumn planting.
The rain continued into May which is why my Tomatoes and Peppers are so small. I did fall a week behind in getting them started. I got very few Basil plants as well so I may have to purchase starts. Basil rot last season with all the rain and cool temperatures. The mornings are cool here in the beginning of June, so I think I'll be okay this late. I don't think I've ever gotten Tomatoes in before June 15.
We have been challenged managing A Farm for All! and White Pine Community Farm. We've decided to manage the space with a Core of four of us which means we learn what we can manage and then build from there. We used to have tenants in the house, but emptied out the space to offer Air Bnb. We have to make taxes by October. We haven't achieved tax exempt status on the land as a non-profit yet. We have to do more work with official low income entities. We are also researching grants for A Farm for All!
White Pine now has a microgreens business, Sharon Mountain Greens which should prove to be a sustaining moneymaker. At least two of us in the Core have been planting for White Pine, Burdock, Marshmallow, Chamomile and weeding Dandelion. White Pine is also an Herbal CSA.
We have gained a Hemp farmer and his partner who is going to use some land as a test site to learn how to grow. Very exciting as he is black. African-Americans have been locked out of the Medical Marijuana industry, but as CBD takes off these two partners seem to be at the forefront.
There is no industry African-Americans dominate in America. We may be part of the music and sports industries, but we do not own much of it. African-Americans were self sufficient in Tulsa, OK in a town called Greenwood until race riots broke out in 1921. Known as Black Wall Street, white residents killed up to 300 blacks and burnt the town to the ground. Some residents remained and rebuilt, but for the most part the town was obliterated. Some day we will learn how to manage this fearful, hateful, arrogant, hypocrite who has the audacity to believe this world was made only for him. If indeed Africa is the cradle of civilization, this European would be the last incarnation of humans, a rebellious teenager wishing to murder their parents. Perhaps woman should apologize for relegating man to breeding during matriachial culture and Black people should apologize for discriminating against the albino (to this day) and we would be on the road to allowing one another. Let me say it here. We are so sorry!
We have to start somewhere. We have to believe there is enough for everyone and there is! Basic Income Guarantee and free housing for the homeless have been tested and the numbers don't lie, but here we have this authoritarian victim who would like us to be as miserable as them. This focus on money and power above all else has produced this abhorrent psychotic character. They are us and we are them. A product of our evolution.
Having no children, my plants are my babies. Last Wednesday was perfect weather, 77 degrees, sunny with a breeze, so I lingered in the garden four hours. It's prep bed and plant season. To look back over a Cabbage bed planted is so satisfying, Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial grown as an annual, eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor). Contains beta carotene and Vitamin C, outer leaves contain vitamin E. May be the origin of our ball games, used as the ball.
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) Our Brassica family of plants are derived from Cabbage so many of the plants are named Brassica oleracea and separated into different groups. Kale has been grown as far back as the Greek and Roman Empires. Contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E and C. Considered a primitive Cabbage. I direct seed Kale in May. I make containers of cooked Kale for the Winter. We have Kale for Christmas after a good season. I started growing a 15' bed instead of a six foot bed last year so that I would get a pot of greens from one harvest.
Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial grown as an annual for swollen root and young leaves, dates back to Assyrian times). A bit higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, contains folic acid and potassium. I also direct seeded Beet in May. I have had digestive issues all my life and figured out the value of fermented foods quite awhile ago so I process pickles and make sauerkraut for Winter. I just love pickled Beets in January! Sargent-Downing is grown communally and Beet is one of the gifts a former member left me. Thank you Nicole!
Corn (Zea mays, Graminae, Annual, Mexico) High in carbohydrates and fiber, contains protein and vitamin B. What to say about one of our most denigrated crops. Grown for cows and not humans. Cows don't eat corn, but if you feed them corn for three months, they bulk up quick for slaughter. If cows eat corn for six months, they die. Corn may have been cultivated in Mexico in 7000BCE. The colonizers found Corn, Beans and Squash growing together in native fields. Known as the Three Sisters in indigenous culture, Corn, Beans and Squash were the staple foods of the natives providing, fiber, protein and vitamin C. I grow Corn, Beans and Squash at Sargent-Downing. I honor our native ancestors and wish to learn the old ways. Beans grow up the stalk of the Corn plant and provide nutrients to the soil, while Squash covers the ground with her giant, leaves keeping down weeds. The Three Sisters were grown in mounds and a fish was placed in the mound for fertilizer.
It's time to harvest Wild Bergamot leaves for tea, (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Shrub, Turtle Island). The leaves get Powdery Mildew once the flowers develop. We can return and harvest the flowers for tea as well. Minty flavor with a cacao backbeat, aromatherapy, good for digestive issues and colds through Winter.
It's also time to harvest Garlic Scapes, the flower stalk of Garlic (Allium sativum, Alliaceae, Perennial, grown as an annual for bulbs, Western Asia). From the taste to its medicinal properties, Garlic is a plant universally loved. Good for the heart, infections, uterine tumors and even to ward of witches. I make a Garlic honey annually and pickle the Scapes, which taste just like Garlic. We have to cut off the Scapes to get the bulb to grow. By Winter I have bunches of Garlic hanging on my doors. No Vampires here!
I look forward to the warm Spring days to linger in the garden. Unfortunately, Mama is constantly weeping, overcasting our days, washing our mess away and reclaiming herself. We have no choice to take the ride and watch the show waiting to come out the other side.
My growing season has consisted of propagation in April, planting in May, harvest and weeding from June to September and harvest and planting September to November. Here in the Northeast in the last four years our entire growing season has shifted from March - October to April to November. I am a purist and a simpleton. I have no desire to jump the season and start seed under lights. I wait for the sun in a greenhouse. My journey is harmony with Earth. Honor and respect for Mother. I do recall it becoming cold pretty quickly last November, though. We have experienced extremes of temperature here in the Northeast over my thirteen years upstate. I have become fearful of the cold. I heat up quickly (hot flashes, though I've been a Hot Mama my whole life) and I cool down quickly as well. We often dip down into the single digits in Winter, not to mention regular snow.
This season, though, I have been, instead of planting Hiddenbrooke (my herb garden) in particular, weeding through May. I realize I should have killed the grass before I planted. My method at Groundwork (my old herb garden) was to kill the grass then dig it up with a cultivator, but I felt I took up too much soil (at least 2 - 3 inches) so I didn't want to do the same this time so I pulled the grass instead. As I write here I realize it is not grass that I am weeding right now, but Sasa or Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, Asia) so technically, by pulling the grass I did kill it making way for Stiltgrass.
I wanted to open six beds this season. I probably still can through Summer and then plant them in Autumn maintaining my process. I have black plastic that I can lay down to kill the grass. I think that I am engaging the space and making way for the new plants. The garden has always been grass.
I engage space, allowing the wild to dwell and, depending on the garden, incorporate my Plant Family be it vegetables or herbs. Half the herb plants are wild and it is quite the adventure to allow them. Flora Jones Garden has become my wild forage garden. I do plant a spiral of vegetables, but for the most part, the garden is wild (to the great chagrin of the neighbors).
Lawn is considered a sign of wealth and English envy, harking back to the rolling hills of the English countryside. I'll take a lawn with the added color of Ground Ivy, Dandelion and Violet any day. Incidentally delicious and nutritious plants. The Establishment will never shake off their royal Motherland regardless of all the cries of "America." We will always be steeped in our British origin, not to mention Dutch, French, Spanish - awwww heck Europe, not to mention Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America - a melting pot after all. Hey, I was born in England, so I get it. Turtle Island will always be steeped in the indigenous, thankfully regardless of all the attempts to rename it with European names (Tappanzee/Cuomo Bridge). Those so-callled "immigrants" down South are in the process of reclaiming Mexico. Don't get it twisted. Europe is white (barely), Turtle Island is red and always will be. The sooner we recognize that fact the easier the transition will be, otherwise it will continue to get ugly. Lawn is wasteful (water) and poisonous (herbicides) to our environment in an effort to keep it green. There are many alternatives.
Though I am challenged by Hiddenbrooke at the moment I do enjoy the arrival of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe), which creates a lovely blue mat of flowers in Spring and can be used for Wild Salad and tea, is a blood cleanser, tonic diuretic and expectorant.
Dandelion, (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought by the Vikings 600 years ago, who were not interested in conquering. Dandelion is the yellow flower found in lawns in early Spring. It is highly nutritious from leaf to flower to root. Leaves have vitamin A, B, C and E and minerals, is diuretic and detoxifies the blood. The flower can be made into a nourishing wine. I am taking Dandelion root tincture through menopause to support the liver and kidneys as they process the extra hormones.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, S., C. & W. Europe) has a pretty purple flower that has been candied. The leaves contain vitamins A and C and can be used for Wild Salad and tea. They also contain saponin, are diuretic, expectorant, alterative and mildly laxative.
Plantain (Plantago major, (broadleaf), P. lanceolata (narrowleaf), Plantaginaceae, Perennial, Eurasia), is known to the natives as "white man's foot" because everywhere the colonists went, Plantain came up. I think it is a statement to the power of herbs that the European heading to the "new world" would bring this valuable herb with them. Susun (Weed) says they wouldn't have been that smart. Plantain leaves can be used in Wild Salad, the Narrowleaf variety is sweeter. The entire Plantain plant contains our Omega 3s. We can have the leaves in salad and collect the seeds to sprinkle on rice or oatmeal through Winter.
Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn.. Astringent.
Mugwort (Artemisa vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, N. Africa, Siberia, Europe) Mugwort is a sacred plant in Asia, Europe as well as to the indigenous of America. She can be dried, for tea and smudge. Whole plant vinegar, aids digestion, regulates menstruation, balances out the energy of menopause. Use sparingly in Wild Salad because she has a strong flavor. Avoid when pregnant.
Clover, (Oxalis acetosella, Oxalidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Asia, Europe,) A tasty lemony flavored leaf that can be used for Wild Salad or lemonade. Astringent, diuretic internally, externally soothes rashes and boils. Large doses can block the absorption of calcium.
Lamb's Quarter (Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Perennial, Europe) Leaves contain vitamis and minerals, complete protein, folic acid, leaf poultice soothes sore skin, avoid shoots if one has kidney problems. Highest level of protein of any green. The leaf is a tasty, nutty flavor in salad. The young stem is also edible and with the leaves can be made into pesto. I recently had Lamb's Quarter cooked and the flavor is enhancee when done so. The seeds are ground into flour.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) A pretty pink flower this season. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in Wild Salad and the leaves can be cooked. High in iron, chromium and B vitamins. Leaves, flowers, infusion monitors overflow of menses, reduces cramps, promotes fertility, reduces hot flashes, treats breast cancer.
Rain, rain, rain. At least I think we can say we had April Showers this season. Rain with 60 - 70 degree days. It has been years since we had April Showers. April has either been too dry, too hot and last year was too cold. Our mornings were 49 degrees right down to June last season. And grey and wet. Hardly motivation to get out into the garden. This year we've had a mixture of beautiful warm Spring days with sudden dips in temperature and rain, but the warming trend slowly kept creeping up so we have low 50's to 60 degree nights. I finally got to garden in the rain this week, my April Shower.
Though we have an administration that denies climate change, we have to look no further than the extreme weather taking place across Turtle Island. Tornadoes and floods are a regular and damaging occurrence in the midwest and south now. We will never forget the fire that raged out of control in California last year. I had my own individual experience with the unprecedented tornado that passed through Beacon last May.
I was gardening at Hiddenbrooke that day. I heard about the tornado watch and head out planning to leave the garden when the rain was scheduled to start. When it started to drizzle I packed up and made my way down the half mile drive to Depuyster Ave. I live five minutes away. I thought I knew the rain in Beacon and it would get heavy by the time I reached home. If one has ever been to Hiddenbrooke., one is familiar with the tree lined road of the Preserve. I didn't give it a thought, but will forever now be mindful of that treacherous tree line to get to the street. By the time I reached the straightaway to the street the wind had picked up and the trees were swaying mightily and branches were falling on the road. I drove over a set of branches because I was so close to the entrance. A large tree limb was blocking the entrance! At this point I called Marc. He wanted to know if I was safe and I had to tell him "No!" He suggested I turn around and go back to the house. When I did so, a tree limb fell and hit the front of the truck and there was too much debris to drive back to the house. I turned around again and thought briefly about staying in the truck until the storm passed, but quickly realized I could be crushed by a falling tree. I decided that if I was going to die, better to die trying to save my life that sitting in the truck and getting crushed. I jumped out of the truck praying for safety and grabbed a branch on the limb, which snapped off and I fell back on my butt, telling myself "No, you dope, grab the whole limb!" I got back up, dragged the limb (about 6" in diameter, 12' long) out of the way, jumped back into the truck and drove home. Halfway home, the world was completely calm and by the time I reached home, there was no rain. The limb that hit the front of the truck cracked the top of the windshield. We had gotten rust repaired and replaced the windshield six months earlier so here we were again! Marc likes to say I threw caution to the wind, but for possibly the first time in my life, I had planned my day with safety in mind. The tornado apparently jumped off in the Hudson River and stayed on the ground until Bridgeport, CT. It was said you could see the damage on Google Earth. It all happened so fast. I was in peril!
I have been traveling to Kingston and Wingdale for the past two years working with my partner farms. One night on the way home from Rosendale I came across a fallen tree with a police car onsite. A pretty big tree! It reopened the thought of peril with these massive trees simply "giving up the ghost." I'm from Miami, so I've see my share of hurricane damage, but to drive around Dutchess County and see the number of fallen trees was incredible. Mt. Saint Mary's Desmond Campus, where I have begun teaching this season, lost one hundred trees and a woman was killed when a tree fell on her car at the entrance. A young girl in Newburgh was crushed after her mother stepped out of the car. I suppose it wasn't my time.
I lost my Mum last July. I consider my own death now and saying good-bye to my husband Marc someday. As our Establishment becomes more treacherous, it is a race to see whether we will lose our democracy or our environment first. Either way, we are not on a hopeful path. Joy is found in the gardens and with the community we have built for ourselves.
I have harvested Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Europe) this month and have hung thirty-eight bunches to dry. I usually get a pound of dried herb that lasts a couple of months. Susun says we need six pounds of herb to make it through the year. Stinging Nettle promotes the optimum functioning of the internal organs. It can be used in place of coffee. With the internal organs functioning optimally, an energy boost is a natural result. Stinging Nettle is good for allergies. Also contains calcium, protein and is good for diabetics. I have planted a square foot of Nettle in my gardens. My original square foot came from Stone Barns. I've heard Nettle is wild on the Fishkill Creek off of Washington Ave. One has to travel by boat to reach it. Nettle spreads about three feet a year. I have planted a square foot of Nettle in my gardens.
This week I also harvested Sunroot also know as Jerusalem Artichoke (not an Artichoke nor from Jerusalem) or Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Her sister H. annuus is the forerunner of Sunflower, hybridized in Europe to the giant head we know today. Sunroot has a tuber in the ground this time of year somewhat like a potato, tangier, I think. I read that the natives used them like Radish so I like to pickle them. The tuber can be boiled, mashed or roasted. Like beans can cause flatulence which is less likely when ingested the second day after cooking. Sunroots contain inulin, which is very good for diabetics. Sunroots cooked and eaten the following day are even more delicious as the inulin has converted to fructose. I've decided to plant them in all my gardens. I have fifty feet on either side of Flora Jones Garden. Just replant the tubers wherever one wants them. They will multiply ever after.
Think globally, act locally Pete Seeger used to say. When we tire of our compromised democracy and natural world, we can find solace in our gardens and community, which is all we've ever had or will have.
In the midst of the "weed" challenge, I also grow vegetables. The purpose of moving upstate was to live off the land. Here I should say that I am unconventional, and anomaly in my Caribbean family. My closest friends have all been married or married and divorced with two to five kids each. I left home when I was nineteen seeking freedom from an authoritative household. I was the only girl, with three older brothers. My parents never intended for me to leave home and consequently, I left home with no life skills whatsoever and thrust myself into the big bad world.
I wanted to be a Park Ranger when I graduated from high school, but I was in Florida then, a woman in the 80's, black and not bilingual so I didn't even have the courage to pursue it. Not to mention, my family would have looked at me as if I had three heads, which they do anyway. I studied Psychology for three semesters in college until Mum ran out of money and then moved to New York to study acting. I am an empath thrust into the most anxiety ridden city in the world. Of course, I didn't know that then.
I grew locks immediately when I left home in love with Bob Marley, who coincidently, passed on in Miami at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. I found his music when I was fourteen and my rebel heart opened. I knew he was the face of freedom. Of course, to this day there is no place for locks in show business outside of Whoopi Goldberg who still has to don a wig in movies. Whoopi Goldberg and Madonna inspired me to move to New York. I couldn't spend the rest of my life constantly concerned with my physical image so I had to move on from acting in my mid-twenties. I thought I should pursue my love of the the natural world and would find more options in New York. I began with studying for a Certificate of Horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and also studied at New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Community College for an Associates Degree in Horticulture. I was working in Riverside Park, Manhattan, by then. I wanted an alternative view of plants which led me to Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center where I found my life's work - herbs.
I moved upstate in 2006, switching into agriculture at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. I knew I wanted to farm. Dutchess County was one of the most affordable then, which is what brought me to Beacon. Racism dogs the African American thoroughly and strong I now know, throughout one's life and though I can navigate the constant white spaces I find myself in, I know that I forge my own path as an herbalist. I love to grow and fortunately I have found my ancestors (Great Grandfathers) who were farmers, not to mention my indigenous cultural heritage (Arawak/Caribe) who were also engaged with the land which affords me the opportunity to believe in the Native American tenet "We belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us." I know I have engaged Spirit in my work and I constantly receive gifts of Spirit.
I grow our Winter stores. Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe). For years I grew six feet, but I have since increased it to fifteen feet to get a pot of greens from one harvest. I start making pots of greens in August and freeze portions for Christmas supper. Kale contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E an C. It is considered a primitive cabbage.
A word about processing. The farming journey, for me has been a delightful process of discovery. As the possibilities for Winter stores unfolded, I fell in love with the processing of the harvest come August. I realized our earlier selves only concerned with the days work before we were shifted off the lands and crammed into cities. We live simply, but the quality of life is peaceful and connected to Spirit.
Sargent-Downing Community Garden (SDG) is grown communally. Individual plots can be found up the road at Stonykill and at SDG's height we had five members and one of the gifts a member left me with are Beets (Beta vulgaris, subs. vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial, ancient Assyria (today Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran)). I love to make pickles and pickled Beets are so good in a Winter pasta salad with Pesto. Higher in carbohydrates than most vegetables, Beets are also a good source of folic acid and potassium.
I have always had digestive issues, which is why I love fermented foods, so good for gut flora. I grow a thirty foot bed of Green and Red Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Asia Minor, eastern Mediterranean). I make three and a half gallons of Sauerkraut for Winter, one of the best ways to get one's greens in Winter. I remember when I was a child coming home from school and taking a fork to the bag of sauerkraut we kept in the fridge. Cabbage is rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, outer leaves of green varieties contain vitamin E.
I love origins, which is why I mention them here. I believe they will serve to unravel this mess of sexism, classism and racism in which we find ourselves today. We can learn to appreciate the contributions of our world family through our fundamental need - food. Cultural bias would have to fall away as we revere these contributions.
Engaged in indigenous education, our group Neetopk Keetopk (www.neetopkkeetopk.org) go back to the old ways of our Native American family and grow the Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash. These three "sisters" are the cornerstone of the native's diet and the gift to the European settlers in early America. Today, unfortunately, Corn is as denigrated as the Native American, not even grown for human consumption, fed to cows (who don't eat corn) to fatten them and subsidized by the USDA for its byproducts, one of which, High Fructose Corn Syrup, is now used to sweeten our food and responsible for the rise of diabetes, especially in pregnant women. Maize is the original name for Corn and it was not as sweet, used for grain and fodder. Corn is thought to have originated in Mexico around 7000 BCE. Corn comes in a variety of colors from yellow to blue to black often found in South America. Corn ranks third behind wheat and rice as one of the most important cereals in the world. Corn (Zea mays, Graminae, Annual, Mexico) is high in carbohydrates, fiber, also contains protein and vitamin B.
Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papilionaceae, Annual) also comes from Mexico as well as Guatemala and parts of the Andes. Settlers found the beans running up the Corn plant providing starch and protein for the natives. Corn provides a stake for the Beans, Beans provide nutrients to the soil and Squash shades out the weeds. A lovely symbiosis. Folklore speaks of the natives placing a fish in the Three Sisters mound as fertilizer. Beans contain potassium, folic acid, beta carotene and protein. Squash also originates in the Americas cultivated for up to 10,000 years. Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima, Pumpkin and Squash, Cucurbita moschata, Summer and Winter Squash, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual). From Zucchini in the Summer to Pumpkin in Autumn, we have a huge variety of food to choose from, high in beta carotene, also containing vitamin C and folic acid. Surely, the madness of today can stem back to this ungrateful European who denigrated this people who gifted them with nourishment in the "New World." On the flip side we can raise discussion about the circumstances of this now demon, leaving Africa so long ago. Paradise Lost? We know the "white devil" abhors the natural world and can only see dominance where our native family dwells within Her as family.
I wild forage Wild Salad April through June and then come July I harvest a Mustard Mix, Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks and Tatsoi. It all started at Stone Barns where we would bag a Salad Mix and a Mustard Mix for our farmers market. For us, it's the perfect variation after a a season of wild greens. Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea, Brassicaceae, central Asia, Himalayas). Sanskrit records show Mustard Greens have been cultivated since 3000 BCE. Annual and Biennial, Mustard Greens contain vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
Stone Barns had an abundance of Parsley one season so my first Pesto was Parsley, a bright green welcome nourishment in the dead of Winter. We don't open our Pesto (I store five quarts) until January after the joy and delight of the holidays. Only in recent years have I made Basil Pesto. I have also used Walnuts as well as Cheese to make a low fat Pesto. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae, Biennial, South Europe) contains beta carotene, vitamin C and iron. I was inspired to make Parsley Pesto when I read that Parsley is used as a vegetable in the Middle East.
Last but certainly not least, the beloved Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum, Solanaceae, Perennial grown as an Annual, Andes), another gift from our Turtle Island region. Tomatoes were considered poisonous in Europe initially because of the strong smell and bright colors, then later an aphrodisiac earning the name Love Apple. Of course, we now associate them with Italians and I've even heard Germans. I grow Tomato with Basil of course, the strong smell warding of insects, Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae, tropical Asia) also associated with Italy, but who do they have to thank for a staple of their cuisine? Asia! I make a quart of Tomato sauce for Goat Lasagna for Christmas. Caribbeans are raised on goat meat. I also make a quart of oven dried tomatoes.
To find unity and an appreciation of our global family, we need look no further than one of our basic needs - food. Surely, in recognizing our individual contributions, there would no longer be the need for cultural bias, especially in recognizing the tens of thousands of years our contributors existed before "discovery."
Mid-May and with so much rain, the challenge is weeds. As an Edible Landscaper, I allow for Wild Forage food plants and medicine in all my gardens.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) is the toughest challenge. She really doesn't know how to control herself. She is sacred to Asians, Europeans and Native Americans. She can be burned and smoked in ceremony. I make a delicious vinegar with her leaves and also use them in my Wild Salad. In the past two years I have dried the leaves for tea. I have been hedge-trimming her at Flora's the last couple of weeks and I don't think she likes it so far only returning in patches. I do maintain her in sections at Flora's and Hiddenbrooke. Mugwort is good for our Moontime and to ease the Great Change (Menopause), but should not be used by pregnant women.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Biennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia, Europe) is the most dominant weed at Sargent-Downing. I did harvest two pounds of leaf once for cooked greens, but it took mighty long to remove the midrib of the leaf which can be too fibrous to enjoy. I consider it a survival food, very sweet and delicious, but too time consuming to process for a regular meal. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. The root and leaves contain mineral electrolytes and can provide energy when exercising. Spikey stalk and leaves. I have an electric mower at SDG so I just keep Bull Thistle mowed.
Ground Ivy (Glechoema hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe) is a beautiful blue mat of flowers in Spring. I like to have her around for her flowers, but I weed her out of the beds. She is a strong flavored green for Wild Salad and can also be used for tea, blood cleansing, tonic and diuretic. Topically, the leaves can be used for bruises and inflammation.
Stiltgrass or Sasa as a Japanese student said it is called in Japan (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, South Asia, East Asia) is a new challenge in the beds. Last year completely covered Anise Hyssop and Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke, though the plants were there underneath. The young leaves are edible and sweet. I once head up Mt. Beacon (1000 ft) without food or water, bonked three quarters of the way up and there was Sasa on the side of the path beckoning me to eat her. I ate five leaves and head up to the peak, refreshed and fortified. The leaves become too fibrous later in the season.
Flora Jones Garden is my Wild Salad garden. A variety of edible wild plants occur that have beautiful flowers. Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn. Red Clover, (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) has a pink flowerhead in Summer. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in our Wild Salad both containing iron. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is much smaller and usually grown for hay. The flowers were once used to make bread.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought to Turtle Island 600 years ago by the Vikings (who weren't interested in conquering). Dandelion along with Ground Ivy and Violet are the bane of the grass enthusiast. I consider their flowers a lovely addition to the boring green lawn, a symbol of wealth brought to us by the English. American lawns are considered English envy. Dandelion is like a multi-vitamin. The leaves are iron rich with vitamins A and C and minerals. The flowers can be made into a nutritious wine and the buds can be pickled. I make a Dandelion Soup with the leaves in late Spring. I am taking root tincture through menopause now to support the liver.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, Europe) has taken over the driveway at Flora's. Beautiful heart shaped leaves and purple flowers can both be eaten in Wild Salad. The flower and leaf can also be made into a syrup for cough, headache and is mildly laxative.
Burdock (Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe) is one of my earliest allies as I have had digestive issues throughout my life. I have taken the first year root tincture for an ulcer, used the leaves put up in vinegar topically to reduce swelling and just recently used the fresh root for tea as a Spring Tonic. The leaves grow to an arm's length and in the second year, Burdock is multi-stemmed with purple Thistle-like flowers. Those burrs on your clothes that you come home with after a hike are Burdock seed heads, the inspiration for Velcro. Our plant Family has multipe uses so when you find your Allies, research them thoroughly.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, R. crispus, Polygonaceae, Perennial, North temperate and Arctic regions). Here is a case of cultural bias as the native R. obtusifolia (the leaf has a red midrib) is rarely included in herbals while R. crispus is always included. Both plants have the same properties. An iron rich root that can be made into a decoction, especially good for women. I find R. obtusifolia most often. The seeds can be made into a vinegar. I used leaves for Nettle soup in early Spring.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Cruciferae, Biennial, North Africa, Asia, Europe). Garlic Mustard leaves taste like Garlic and the flowers and seeds taste like Mustard. A spicy addition to our Wild Salad, like Dandelion quickly flowering in Spring, but there are usually first year leaves available at the foot of the second year plants.
Field bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis var. arvensis (broadleaf), C. arvensis var. linearifolius (narrow-leaved) Convulvulaceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe). Field Bindweed is the bane of my existence the last two year's at Flora's overtaking Vetch. Related to Morning Glory (Ipomea hederacea, Convulvulaceae, Annual, Vine, Turtle Island to Argentina), Field Bindweed does contain glycosides and purgative properties. I have used the leaves of Morning Glory in salad. The dried seeds are thought to be hallucinogenic and are used in Asia for worms, constipation, as a diuretic and to stimulate menstruation. I. tricolor and I. violacea seeds have compounds similar to LSD and were used in Aztec rituals.
Vetch (Vicia americana, Leguminosae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Vetch seeds and young stems are edible, tasting like Bean Sprouts. The plants contain cyanide so use with caution. Sweet pink flowers in Summer. So prolific I was shocked when Field Bindweed overtook her. She was the first "weed to find her place at Flora's so I thought I would always have her. A succession plant lesson would be useful here.
Dare I say, if we used all of these plants mentioned here as food and medicine, they would be less invasive.
Sally Garden of Eden is my one paid Edible Landscape gig in Rosendale. The garden is at the top of the Shawangunk Ridge with a rock face at the back of the garden. It is a joy to leave Beacon for a day and enjoy a drive through the countryside in any season. I can imagine the colonizers back in the day must have thought the lands were infinite coming from their tiny countries in comparison to Turtle Island.
I met Sally and Paul Bermanzohn during the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign in 2013. I may have mentioned when I moved to upstate Spirit told me to find the natives. In the process, I uncovered my own Arawak/Caribe cultural heritage. The Caribes conquered the Arawak, what conflicted blood some of us have running through our veins! The Arawak are also known as Amerindians and come from South America (Guyana) where my Mum was from and the Caribe are from Dominica where my Dad is from. I produced my first native American event in 2010 at the the theater at University Settlement - a two day Eco-Fest featuring Evan Pritchard, Tony Moonhawk, Pete Seeger and Grandmother Flor de Mayo of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (www.grandmotherscouncil.org). It was the beginning of this spirited life I have had the privilege of living.
Spirit runs through all things, people, animals, insects, rocks, earth, water, fire and air. It is what connects us and makes us one. Man has constantly sought to divide us over petty differences like gender, class, race and religion, but Spirit constantly returns us to ourselves . Community is the one human experience that can never be broken and it's the one thing we can rely on through dark days like today. Hold one another and share love and connection.
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign (www.honorthetworow.org) marked the 400th anniversary of the original treaty signed between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and the Dutch. The Haudenosaunee comprise the Five Nations Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Peoples, the First Peoples. The Haudenosaunee are the world's oldest democracy and the American Constitution is based off of their principles. The Two Row Wampum is a belt that symbolizes the treaty. It has two colors of beads and means that the two peoples will travel this life together parallel, without interfering with one another "as long as the grass is green, the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west." The Campaign was a two week canoe trip across the Mohawk River and down the Hudson to the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Beacon held the largest festivals welcoming the rowers for overnight stays. I was coordinator for the Beacon Festival. We organised the festival, but for me, I had no idea how it would feel to participate. We had performances and talks and vendors all day, but when the horses arrived from the Dakotas and the rowers arrived on the river, I was so lifted! Spirit is magnificent! It is now life before Two Row and life after Two Row. Unfortunately, America walked out of the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.
A month later wearing my Two Row t-shirt, I attended the Ramapaugh Pow Wow and met Sally who also had on her t-shirt and we shared our joyful stories and experiences. Sally organized the Kingston festival and even paddled a section of the canoe trip. I wanted to paddle to Cold Spring, but I did end driving two African Drummers down and helped pull the canoes in the day after Beacon. The African Drummers were the only music in Cold Spring.
Sally and Paul Bermanzohn are long time activists now in their seventies who were victims of the Greensboro Massacre in Greensboro, NC in 1979. They lost friends that day and Paul was shot in the head and handicapped. It was a protest against the Ku Klux Klan and the local police delayed their response and white protestors showed up with a trunk full of guns and opened fire on the protestors. Sally and Paul travel annually to events held to commemorate the event. Sally has written a book about the incident, Through Survivor's Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre. the work continues.
Sally's garden is a forest of White Pine, so my Plant Family (Stinging Nettle, Comfrey, Wild Bergamot, Sunroot, Burdock, Valerian) are not thriving in the shade. I did find an article from 2002 this Winter that is all about forest dwellers. I'm considering Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Europe), both shade loving plants. Sally already has Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and I actually transplant out of her garden into mine.
I have compost piles in all my gardens, but Sally was the first compost that I made for someone else. I have been Compost Queen at the Beacon Sloop Club Strawberry, Corn and Pumpkin festivals since 2007, but it is a different story when one explains the process to a client and it works. We have two bins, one for the current season's ingredients of weeds, food scraps and chicken hay and come Autumn we layer the first bin into the second bin adding leaves. To my surprise it worked like a charm and we have been adding her compost back to her four raised beds ever since. This season is the first season we have got enough for all four bins. Such a rewarding exercise!
Sally works with me so we start each garden time with a walk through to see how our plantings are doing. She has a beautiful ornamental garden already in place and my job is to add medicinal plants. She has three sections of gardens around the house and they are filled with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Fern, Matteucia sp., Perennial, Worldwide), Vinca, (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae, Perennial, Africa, Asia, Europe), Foxglove (Digitalis sp., Plantaginaceae, Africa, Asia, Europe) and Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Europe. Her family has always had gardens and Sally keeps the family tradition going.
April has drawn to a close and we have had April Showers this season. I don't know the last time we had April Showers. Rain, but warm weather rising into the high sixties. Perfect for a comfortable drenching in the garden. A Spring Shower! Unfortunately, the few times I spent in the garden when it rained, it was too cool to get drenched. I sat on the porch at Hiddenbrooke and watched the torrential rain until I was chilled and then went inside for tea.
Hiddenbrooke Open Space Preserve is the brainchild of Shannon Murphy of Beacon Yoga. I met her when she was in the midst of releasing the space from the developer who at least wanted his commission from the City of Beacon when his project fell through. Shannon was my yoga instructor and promptly told me of her plans for Hiddenbrooke.
Hiddenbrooke is also the home of Carmelite Nuns who took over from Ursuline Nuns years ago. Shannon's Grandfather was the caretaker for the Ursuline Nuns and they gifted him twelve acres when they left. Shannon's idea was for a Wellness Center and I walked the property with her, an artist and a waterkeeper in 2010. Hiddenbrooke became an Open Space Preserve around 2012 and Shannon set her sights on her grandfather's old cottage for the Wellness Center. In 2016, she informed me it was time to plant the herb garden.
I had been growing in Wappinger at Obercreek for three years and was displaced in 2017, interestingly enough, felled by organic certification. There are no regulations for herbs, but an organic farm cannot have a third party on the property. But Spirit provides and Shannon invited me to move my garden to Hiddenbrooke five minutes from my apartment. And I can teach onsite as well. Spirit be praised!
I began my journey into the wilderness with walks throughout the area. I hiked Mt Beacon once a month for six months, Madame Brett in the coldest of Winters and jogged the icy path of the Frannie Reese Trail along the river. By 2011, with the recession looming and losing our home in the midst (having to move twice in two years) I still walked to yoga class in the dead of Winter. Not much choice because we lost our Subaru as well. 2011 was perfectly bittersweet. I consider it a Rite of Passage into the wilderness, for I gained my three gardens in 2011, Sargent-Downing, Flora Jones and Groundwork. I also made the final decision not to have children in 2011. Bittersweet in deed.
I did come to understand the nature of Spirit. I believe the nature of Spirit is to make it up as you go along. Not much room for that belief in our controlled Establishment. On the contrary, we are taught to live in fear, anxious each day we venture out our door. We are unworthy and should be punished for ever having been born. Enter Abraham (www.abraham-hicks.com) and the belief that "the purpose of life is joy," thwarting my religious upbringing (mine being Catholic, Pentacostal and Southern Baptist). I left the church when I was sixteen vowing to find the truth. Vision Quests and mind-altering substances later in my mid-twenties I stumbled upon Seth Speaks (www.sethcenter.com), the entity channeled by Jane Roberts, my firt encounter with the purpose of life being joy. I still get the catalog. Jane Roberts passed on in 1984. Falling back on my religious upbringing, I left the books alone in my late twenties believing that if it was for me, I would revisit them again. Theo (www.asktheo.com) had occurred by then, but I wasn't ready to carry on beyond Seth. Ten years later, leaving the boroughs (New York City) and beginning farming, I was handed Abraham. What a joy to revisit what I had come to know as true. A true gift of Spirit. We have evolved, if ever religion was anything beyond a means to control the masses (opioid anyone?). We are brilliant, bright, magical beings and no one, especially a man, has the right to deny us, especially women, the gift of Spirit.
I consider all of my good fortune "Gifts of Spirit" these days. The question is whether or not the gifts of Spirit are diametrically opposed to the Establishment? The gifts of Spirit are definitely different and not necessarily monetary in value. As I venture forth, promoting my businesses, I wonder where Spirit and the Establishment meet. We most certainly do not need money to be happy, but we certainly need it to pay bills. My husband and I absolutely have a certain level of ease from the harvest, about food for Winter. We have to pay rent and we purchase water. So our basic needs food, shelter, water, we need money to pay for two out of three. Then we have to pay for transportation because, in our case, Marc travels to Manhattan for work five days a week. And I travel an hour upstate at least once a week. Abraham says "come into alignment with money" so that's the next leg of the journey. I look forward to the adventure.
Through United Plant Savers (www.unitedplantsavers.org), I have connected with native and endangered plants and consider them part of my work. There are easily European standard herbs that we all now and love that I will always grow.
My old herb garden, Groundwork had a sundial in the center and I radiated circular beds out from the sundial.
Hiddenbrooke has a fountain down the center of the garden so we have come up with a different plan. I consider my gardens a canvas with levels of texture, layer and form and Shannon is an artist and she suggested I look at the work of Wassily Kandinsky, an artist who uses curves as well as straight lines. Hiddenbrooke Herb Garden is on a slope as well. I now have a series of curved beds and straight beds. My first beds were ornamentals which also have herbal value Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia, Perennial, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island). Next I opened beds for Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate', Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia), Spearmint (Mentha spicata, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia) and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia). I open beds and plant in Spring and Autumn in the cooler weather. By the end of 2017, I had beds for Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valeriaceae, Perennial, West Asia, Europe), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Northern Hemisphere, Burdock, Arctium lappa, A. minus, Asteraceae, Biennial, Europe and Turtle Island respectively, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia). At the end of 2018, I installed beds for St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Echinacea, (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island).
Phlox - leaves can be eaten in Wild Salad
Columbine - homeopathic for the nervous system
Bleeding Heart - leaves for Wild Salad
Mints - digestives issues, for me Spearmint does not work as well as Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
Valerian - sleep aid
Stinging Nettle - iron, protein, diabetes, allergies, promotes the optimum functioning of the eternal organs
Burdock - digestive issues, anticancer, headache
Anise Hyssop - native cough medicine
Skullcap - native painkiller
Elecampane - cough medicine
St. Johnswort - depression, oil for muscle ache
Echinacea - antibacterial, antiviral
Wild Bergamot - colds, digestive issues
Arbor Day 2019. Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, nationwide. Sargent-Downing Gardens has planted a tree on Arbor day for the last four years which means I have planted a tree for the last four years.
Sargent-Downing Garden and Nursery started out with a board of six of us in 2011. I was consulted by Richie Cabo as to how to go about approaching the city to gain access to a garden at University Settlement and to renovate a portion of the gym for our Education Center. The ideas was to provide a family experience of gardening with events and educational opportunities. I had been working with the indigenous since 2010 so I brought folks like Tony Moonhawk of the Ramapough through to put up a Peace Pole and to have Pow Wow on the Hudson.
When I moved to Beacon in 2006, Spirit told me to find the natives. I connected with the indigenous and the Europeans born or had spent the better part of their lives upstate. I uncovered my own cultural heritage of Arawak (South America) and Caribe (Caribbean) in the process. These folks remain my closest allies to this day. Beacon's latest incarnation is young families. For the past twenty - thirty years folks have moved up from the boroughs to raise their families.
At the same time I was studying the Wise Woman Tradition with Susun Weed (www.susunweed.com) and I had worked for Pete so my activist self was born. The Wise Woman Tradition teaches in my opinion, the feminine assertion which is different form the masculine aggression. For me assertion seems to come from an inclusive energy rather than from a rape and pillage aggressive energy. It stands up for the people. I am also a middle class Caribbean woman which comes with a certain sense of entitlement.
University Settlement (www.universitysettlement.org) is the first settlement house in the country providing aid to newly arrived immigrants coming through Ellis Island. They still function in downtown Manhattan on the Lower East Side. Where we proposed to have the garden was University Settlement's upstate sleepaway camp for youth. It's eighty acres and was sold to New York State in 2009 and turned into a State Park. The state gave it to Beacon to manage. Beacon does not have funding to maintain the space so any group with a good idea can use the space and renovate any building they wish to inhabit. In our case, the storage room adjacent to the gym. We held a fundraiser to repair the roof and use it for an Education Center. It is a narrow room that runs the length of the full size gym.
Little did I know when I grew locks on my head at nineteen years old that I would spend my life in Resistance to the Establishment. I just wanted to be free. I am thankful to all the benevolent folks who saw fit to employ me over my now middle aged years. I have definitely had to navigate outside the status quo. I have also foregone children which has provided that freedom, but set me firmly outside Beacon's latest incarnation.
I moved upstate to live the Simple Life and my husband Marc and I have achieved it our way in an affordable apartment with gardens that provide our food and medicine. After the horror of experiencing the 2008 Recession hitting us in 2011, we can confidently say we are in recovery and have well-being on a daily basis.
In 2012 I designed the garden with a spiral and eight curved beds. Vickie Raabin, known on Main St. as Miss Vickie Music had an indigenous month with events throughout Main st. I created a 4' x '6' Dreamcatcher to be hung on the wall outside Bank Square. I though she would be a good choice for President of Sargent-Downing so I nominated her at the end of the year. Interest in Sargent-Downing had begun to dwindle so I thought she would bring renewed interest. University Settlement is on the outskirts of town and many people don't even know it exists. And I believe if a family is interested in growing food they will have a garden in their yard. I use the garden because I live in an apartment. I also decided to make it a communal garden and that may not be of interest. Vickie's nomination resulted in what was left of the board to move on to other projects and it has been Vickie and I ever since. Vickie brought more education programming than we had in our whole existence.
Vickie now does Guerilla Gardening on Main St. and I manage the garden which is two blocks from my apartment. At the height I have had five members which is about the maximum, but it dwindled to one in 2018 and now just me in 2019. I grow plants from seed for myself and Vickie on Main St. I grow enough food to feed my husband and I through Winter which was always the goal. I have had my challenges over the years, but here I am growing again in 2019.
For Arbor Day we have planted Juneberry (Saskatoon Serviceberry) (Amelanchior alnifolia, Rosaceae, Turtle Island) for the past three years. The first year I planted a Redbud, but the deer got to the trunk and killed it. Deer nibble on the young bark for water through Winter. We hadn't fenced it. Lesson learned. I have to order the Juneberry in January if I want one. Another learning curve. Vickie talked me into planting a tree for Arbor Day. A good way to maintain interest in Sargent-Downing. I planted eighty trees in Riverside Park in Manhattan for Mayor Bloomberg's Million Trees initiative so I have experience. I can plant one tree a year. We planted a block off Main St on Henry St and we now have three Juneberries.
Vickie and I are assertive women of color most often dismissed in the Establishment. It is an honor and a privilege to support her as an indigenous woman. we love what we do in support of community in Beacon. Community is the journey we face in the current climate. The Establishment can not fight a well organized community. Community is what has developed the human race all of our existence and it's what will carry us through here. We all get a seat at the table or we will not find our way.
A Tree Committee was formed by the City of Beacon so now we have help. Vickie and I are both members. The Highway Department forgetting that I plant a tree, planted all the rest of the tree wells on Henry St. so I didn't actually get to plant on Arbor Day. I have to wait a week to get another hold dug for my Juneberry. Mark Price at Beacon Recreation has donated the tree over the years. We specked out ten tree wells between Teller and Chestnut on Main and Henry St and we have Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', Rosaceae, Northern temperate) and Crimson King Maple (Acer platanoides 'Crimson King') planted in all ten. For Arbor Day we had a tent and food donated by Adams (www.adamsfarms.com) and Towne Crier (www.townecrier.com). We planted a Crimson King Maple in front of Oak Vino on Main St. (www.oakvino.com).
Planting a tree on Arbor Day has become very special to me. It's simplicity is incredibly profound. Working with plants is a gift of Spirit that, if you love it, is a gift that keeps on giving.
For me the season begins with Cleaning. I realize I could have done the tool inventory and cleaning my herb drying space in March, but it's usually too cold for me to get that motivated.
I am Director for the non-profit A Farm for All! which grants land to my partner farm White Pine Community Farm. I travel up to Webatuck (Wingdale) which is an hour northeast of Beacon once a month. Ben, the head farmer was busy in the attic mid-March cleaning when I got there. The attic is his drying space. White Pine is an herb farm which is one of the reasons that drew me there.
I had reluctantly become an activist working for Pete Seeger for four years from 2006 -2010. Pete Seeger created Clearwater, an environmental organization that has raised awareness about the pollution in the Hudson especially the PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyl) dumped into the Upper River (Hudson Falls and Fort Edward) by General Electric. Pete lived in Beacon and when he built a tiny sailboat when he first moved here, he was pressed into action when he saw feces floating in the river. The city also had a garbage dump on the river where they would burn their trash. Pete turned that area into now what is Riverfront Park.
Clearwater was created in 1966. The boat came later in 1969. The boat is a 100' sloop which provides environmental education for school groups. A sloop is a one masted sailboat with a fore and aft mainsail and a jib. They shipped supplies down to Manhattan in early America. Beacon is named Beacon because soldiers would light fires on Mt. Beacon (1500') during the Revolutionary War to alert the troops that the British were coming. George Washington's headquarters is across the river in Newburgh. Firm energy of beginnings in our town.
Pete's dream was to have sail clubs in rivertowns along the Hudson with a smaller version of the Clearwater to raise money for the Clearwater. Beacon has a Sloop Club (www.beaconsloopclub.org) offering free sails Monday - Friday 6 -9pm from May - October. I joined the club in 2007 and trained to sail on a crew. I sailed for two years. In 2010, I became Treasurer, a position I held for seven years. Pete was at the end of his life and unfortunately his clubs had lost their way being infiltrated by corporate types who diluted the original vision barely following his advice anymore. Online the Beacon Sloop Club is described as a Yacht Club.
I left the Beacon Sloop Club in 2016. Pete had passed on in 2014 and the corporate element swooped in to crush his vision. Dare I say the Beacon Sloop club is misogynistic and racist like any good corporation. I was looking for an organization to work with that was aligned with the vision I had been taught (civil rights for all) when I came across A Farm for All!
I have known Ben for ten years and he had a Dismantling Patriarchy event in 2014 and I knew I had to get up to his farm and volunteer. Ben also has a women's cooperative project in Honduras which returns the displaced indigenous to their original land. Work near and dear to my heart, so I contacted him and there I am.
My work as an herbalist is with women, people of color and the indigenous. I am an herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition (www.susunweed.com) which works for women. As I said I am a reluctant activist, but I have been engaged with some of the most amazing projects on the journey.
I leave the dead stalks in my gardens through Winter. I took a class with Karyn Sanders a Choctaw woman of the Blue Otter School of Medicine (www.blueotterschool.com) and she mentioned that one leaves the dead stalks through Winter to allow places for birds to land when it snows. I love to gather Native Turtle Island (America) wisdom and use it in my life. Like "we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us." I haven't had to personally own property yet.
I clean the dead stalks in Spring. I have Sunroot (Jerusulam Artichoke or Sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) a forerunner to Sunflower, neither from Jerusalem nor an Artichoke, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, Africa, West Asia, Europe) and Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia and Europe). I collect the stalks and this season I am making a pile that I believe will break down and I can use it for mulch. I have compost windrows in all my gardens. Europeans began writing down the names of plants so we will encounter some cultural bias inherent in their names. Some botanists go as far as to name the plants after themselves (Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia, Oleaceae, Shrub, Eastern Asia named after William Forsyth). I have learned that the indigenous here on Turtle Island called Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunroot which for me is more affectionate than Sunchoke, which was no doubt named for the plethora of flowers that appear on the plant in September. Being of Caribbean descent and in love with color, I've often found the European finds color offensive hence the derogatory Sunchoke.
I spend April cleaning and I realized last season (which was 49 degree mornings until June), I can direct seed plants like Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) when the nights are 45 degrees so I may get in Kale by the end of the month.
I start seeds in the greenhouse at White Pine and start planting out in May. So far I've started Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, Asteraceae, Annual, Turtle Island), Borage (Borago officinalis, Annual, Europe), Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor), Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae, Annual, Asia) and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Eurasia). The season is afoot!
Opening week in the gardens April 1. I have the opportunity to focus on the gardens exclusively. I will work for myself now. I believe if I pour all my energy into marketing my business I will make a living.
I took inventory of the tools this week and will look into tool maintenance. I have never had a tool maintenance schedule. I think I have changed the blade on my Felco pruner once in twenty years. I load up my truck a 1998 Chevy Tahoe with three tool bags, in front of the back seat and basic tools on a tarp in the back.
Ax - 1
Bag of clothespins (drying herbs)
Bag of nails (?)
Broom - Corn 1
Coupler - Brass 1
Dustpan - 1
Fork - Hay 1
Gloves - Brown 1
Knit (green dots) 1
Polyester (lilac) 1
Rubber (blue) 1
Vinyl (sky blue) 1
Hammer - 1
Hook (fence) - 1
Maglite - 2
Mallet - 1
Measuring Tape - 35' - 1
300' - 1
Metal Pipe (stake holes) - 3
Pick Axe - 2
Quick Connect Plug - 1
Rake - Hard - 5
Leaf - 1
Screwdriver - 1
Shovel - Leaf - 1
Round - Small 1
Short - 2
Square - 1
Shut off Valve - Brass 1
Steelwool - 1
Tie - Rope 1
Tie Down 2
Trowel - 1
Vice Grip - Small (broken) 1
Interestingly enough baseball Opening Day was a few weeks ago which is why I'm using the phrase here. I find it fascinating how the Establishment has shifted our focus at key points in our lives. In this case baseball shifts the focus from "Opening Day" in the gardens. Aaaaaooooohhhh, we gon' get down and dirty here cause what has happened to us as a people in the midst of divide and conquer was down and dirty so in order to reach restitution, we gon' have to face some realness.
We have dreamed of gardens since closing day mid November, assessing what went right, what went wrong and what changes we want to make in the new season. I switched out heavy plastic fence at Sargent-Downing, my community garden, for deer netting after six year of any weight pulling down the plastic fence. I ruminated over chain link, metal, more permanent installations, but all would require concrete footing and the Hudson Valley is a Watershed and I could not in good conscious place concrete in the underground streams. I engage Earth harmoniously as much as and as often as possible. In our journey toward modernization we have turned our relationship to Earth into a war to tame her to our great frustration. The garden sits in a wind tunnel and I realize this season with parts of the fence down I can weave the fence inside the posts so the pressure of the wind will push the fence against the post instead of away from it. The front fence is intact.
The other thing I learned last season was to grow more Kale so that I get a pot of greens out of one harvest. I had a six foot bed over all these years and it would take two harvest to get enough Kale for a pot of greens so last year I grew half a bed (15') of Kale and then I put Mustard Mix (Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks, Tatsoi) in the other half and voila! Brassica bed. There is no end to the individual growth one experiences gardening. One must always be solution oriented. Not to mention we are outside in the fresh beautiful healthy air and sun.
I finally have the right growing conditions for Anise Hyssop (native cough medicine) and Skullcap (native painkiller). Hiddenbrooke is my second herb garden. I was displaced from my first herb garden in 2017 and my good friend Shannon was kind enough to offer me space. Hiddenbrooke is a teaching space as well. After not doing very well with Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island (America)) and Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) for three seasons, I finally decided to look up their growing conditions and lo and behold, they are forest dwellers! I had them in full sun. The problem last season was them being over run with Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium viminium, Poaceae, Perennial, Asia), that I hope to remedy with brown paper. Skullcap will be tricky because she grows very delicately. Hiddenbrooke is my production site and I want to go to market in Autumn. Plants have a common name, a botanical name (typically Greek or Latin), and a family name. I will place them here after the common name along with their lifespan and origin. Like colonizers the world over plants have found new lands and over run the natives.
Flora Jones Garden is the first space I bartered for land. Flora Jones is an African -American Democrat activist in Beacon. She approached me in 2011 to "do something" with her 50 x 70' lawn in her backyard. She was sick of having it mowed and recalled growing food in gardens in Alabama when she was a child. I originally grew the vegetables in the back of the garden because there was a wild herb (Vetch, Vicia sativa, Leguminosae, Perennial, Africa, Turtle Island, South America, Asia, Europe) growing in the front. Vetch has since been over run by Bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis, Convulvulaceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe). The trees in the back of the garden are now shading out the vegetable garden so I will be moving it to the front of the garden this season. Flora Jones Garden is my Wild Salad garden. I harvest for myself and my classes all season. Let me state here, that herbs are generally considered weeds in the average garden, so the wildness of Flora Jones has been the bane of her neighbor's existence since I began so if you ever endeavor to grow naturally your neighbors will not be happy. The thing is no one asked Flora when they sold three quarters of the old houses on the block for a new development that placed the driveway out right next to her house so she has the right to block the traffic. I have placed a fifty foot stand on both sides of the garden (she has six neighbors as well) of Sunroot (Jerusalem Artichoke) which grows about eight feet tall and has beautiful yellow flowers in September. When I first started working in the garden I felt exposed so I could imagine how she felt on a daily basis. I had to do something. A new neighbor actually called the city last season, but we won the day. The precedent had already been set. If we can name all the plants and their uses, we are allowed!
When the weather breaks and we venture out into the gardens, it is the beginning of a season of adventure. Enjoy!