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.