Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Springing Up All Over

I stole a few minutes before and after my visit at the farm this evening for a much needed dose of sunshine. While I was soaking up all those rays, I spent a little time looking around, indulging my senses. The sounds, sights, smells and textures were luscious. In my home garden, the rhubarb is just exploding her tart self upward toward the sun; I wanted to divide her this year. I wonder how that will affect this year's production. Last year's mint is sprinting toward the lawn. I'm OK with that, as I consider lawns to be a waste of time; I'm all about biodiversity. The primroses came back, as joyful for spring as I am.
The plugs of sweet woodruff that I moved to the shady side yard have acclimated themselves nicely, and are spreading out toward the little sunny patch where I have my butterfly garden. Infant bee balm hangs on for the ride.
I was surprised by the pretty little plant below. I spotted it last year at our local reservoir. I've been calling it wintergreen for my entire life. I looked it up in my Peterson Field Guide to Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, and found that it's actually called Partridgeberry, or Squaw Vine. A very pretty plant. I brought home a small sample to photograph, because I didn't have my camera with me at the reservoir. Silly me.
The BIG find of the day was this funny, gelatinous fungus I found while following a deer path. Isn't it dramatic? It's called, appropriately enough, "Orange Jelly", and likes conifers. I found that in Bill Russell's Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid Atlantic. There were several patches of it there. It's pretty-much useless for human consumption, but I found it interesting to look at, and to poke gently with my finger. The white pine branches all around it (which had fallen in yesterday's wind storm) however, smelled wonderful, and do have traditional medicinal uses. You can look them up in Peterson's as well.
I find my walks in the woods to be so interesting and grounding; it's one of the times that I feel at my most immediate (a "Be Here Now" moment, for those of you who remember such things). I'm gong to try to make more time for them. They heal my winter-weary soul. I found myself laughing with the water, and thanking the skunk cabbage blossoms for being the first vegetable drama of the spring (our goat kids were the first animal drama). There can't be a more optimistic time of year. Is it any wonder we have our spring holidays now? I know I want to celebrate; celebrate new beginnings, the passage from dark into light, new birth, fecundity. Welcome, warm weather! Welcome, spring!


  1. Sandy -- good going woman!

    Your two favorite books are my 2 favorite authors: I have most of Dillard's & Kingsolver's books in the Guest House (along with Tony Hillerman and most of the Audubon nature guides). 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' is so tattered from reading it to friends over the years (on hikes, too), that I need to get a newer copy for the rental. To this day I pick up pennies because of this book -- pausing and giving the Great Creator of All That Is, and Changing Mother/Gaia, a moment of thanks/gratitude.

    I devoured 'Sacred Plant Medicine' lately, and some of the book's passages have stuck with me like 'Pilgrim...', One is about how little we have plumbed the understanding/ knowing of our environment. There are studies about music increasing the crop yields -- refined down it was found that specifically Vivaldi's 'Spring' of his "Four Seasons", and 2 Bach violin concerti really helped. Upon further contemplation, someone made a connection that parts of the music sound very like bird songs (Beethoven's 5th -- the classic duh-duh-duh DUHHH opening -- is a particular bird's song). So, someone experimented with playing bird songs to the wheat -- yep. The wheat went crazy -- the yield was something like 160% greater. Rachel Carson ('Silent Spring') would have loved this. DDT didn't just make a mess of insects and birds, the vibrations of many varieties of bird songs is/are important to our food/plants/trees, etc. So I'm trying to figure out how to create recordings of lots of different birds and then amp it up for our bio-dynamic plants here -- to compensate for what DDT's legacy did to our bird populations so long ago -- and still the damaging ripple effect continues. There's never been spraying, fertiliers, or chemicals on this land; yet the birds are still a fraction of what they were. However, the insects (uhh, yeah) and fireflies are pretty good here-- one of my favorites is the hummingbird moth (actually a daytime hawk moth member).

    I'm sure you've seen some of the 'food' documentaries (Food, Inc., Food Nation, etc.) -- & Kingsolver explains beautifully what's wrong with all this unlabeled GM stuff we're taking in (all canola oil, soy oil, corn oil, etc.) Not only do the dometistic and wild animals not eat these GM grains, but many humans get stomach aches (and stomach cancers are increasing at an alarming rate) from these hidden GM products. Marc can only tolerate good olive oil -- he's my food tester-- and some fresh corn-on-the-cob makes him sick. I grew 3 carefully chosen varieties last year, and no stomach aches (plus they were yummy).

    When we eat a high percentage of foods from our farm (and not from the grocery stores), we have so much better energy and health -- plus we are eating in harmony with our locale.

    I would love to do some plant/seed exchanging some time. I would love to have Sweet Woodruff (if you don't have fuzzy Apple Mint -- I'll get some to you -- it's so great steeped in iced tea with OJ and lemon juice).

    Your alignment with goats sounds joyous -- we hope some day to have a few when the conditions come together for that. Right now it's hard enough keeping the Belgian draft mule from sailing over the electric line to go on a rampage of the area's lawns and gardens (oh, I'm sorry about your lawn, and you too, I'm so sorry about your gourmet greens...). Goats are escape artists, and I did not sign anything in our marriage contract that says I will run after and bring back all goats whenever they escape, in all weather conditions, and at whatever time of the night/morning, apologizing to all my neighbors for the destruction of their prized whatcha-ma-callits. No, not yet -- maybe in a year or two, or three, or...



  2. Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for your insightful comments! You should blog; you have a good bit of interesting wisdom to share. Wow...the zeitgeist seems to be changing in a positive manner.

    I'm taking a course on herbs, and confirming and remining lots of old knowledge I've repressed. I used to spend most of my non-school time in the woods and fields as a kid, and had a good teacher or two back then. I know more than I can remember any more! My most recently devoured book was "Healing Wise" by Susun Weed; I enjoyed her thoughts but found it a bit repetitive. Am currently referring to "The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook" by James Green, and "The Herbalist's Way" by Nancy and Michael Phillips, as well as my own voices within. It feels good to come home to myself. And Peter is coming along for the ride, as usual.

    Happy Spring!

  3. Miz Eckert (Healing Plants Whisperer)

    Susun Weed I found out about just after we moved from Rhinebeck (15-min to Woodstock, NY). I'm sorry I didn't go to some of her courses, though I agree with you about her writing.

    The Green & Phillips' books are two I'm thinking of going thru if I ILL (Inter-Library Loan) them first to see which one I want to add to our books (which need to also be 'weeded out' & scaled down some). Earl (Mule) is a living vacuum cleaner of the land (over-sized goat--no milk). And this 2-months early spring has revealed his eating penchant to have damaged 4 of my fledgling blueberry plants and a young apple tree. So amidst a certain amount of grumbling, I moved them to where I have a raised bed of other blueberry young-uns. The Apple tree was put in a nicely exposed safe place near the healing lilacs, surrounded by apple mint. So, I have some Apple Mint root masses for you if you'd like.

    The healing flower essences we're using right now are from Green Hope Farm []-- the owner (female) does not allow visitors (just her workers) to her farm, to keep the vibrations unpolluted. I think you'd like these essence. Her book is a treasure-trove of information about sacred plant medicine --collected from various parts of the world. Her sebsite is also loaded with useful photos/info. We're using some on our equines to balance their different issues -- you may like her animal wellness section -- and send her some of your goat photos.

    Can I have a few Sweet Woodruff roots -- I haven't found a source here yet. Some of the early spring plants I have in abundance, you might like, are: Speedwell (low ground cover that sports small sky-blue flowers in profusion, and Pulmonaria/Lung Wort (green leaves with lighter-colored polka dots, and pink buds that open as deep sky-blue flowers. Both do well in semi-shady loamy woods-like areas to sunny sandy places. My species daylilies (also in my raised nursery bed) are just testing this extra early warmth. Later, if they seem to have acclimated well, I'll send a list of which ones I have with info/pix. I can send you seeds from my columbine (mostly dark violet), roots of my red bee balm (didyma), and root balls of my deep blue Siberian Iris. There are various ferns here if you want, plus fireweed. The wild roses are hardy, thorny and invasive over time. The wild rose that is called Purple [flowering] Raspberry (thornless) is also hardy, blooms for a fiar amount of time,and each flower becomes a tart raspberry-look alike high in C. The equines devour every part of the plant when I offer it to them -- leaves, stems, roots, berries --probably very healing (maybe your goats would also love this plant -- it grows on canes like raspberries do, and needs to be cut back some before winter).

    Love reading your blogs -- keep up the great work you're doing.


  4. Stephanie,
    Peter suggests a cold pack to send you sweet woodruff. As soon as he gets me one, I'll send you a chunk.
    We had a little bit of a setback with my mother and my knee, but we're getting back on track now. I'll let you know when the plants are coming.