I look down at my foot just a few hours after I put the first coating of the Calendula Salve, first it looks like an oozy mess (sorry for those who did not grow up with a nurse as a Mom, nothing turns my stomach) then the ick turns to what appears to be a new growth of skin. This after several days of raw red flesh. The next day there is literally a few millimeters of new fresh skin I continue to add the salve, foregoing the antibiotic cream and band aids that I had been wearing on the sore on my ankle. And I continue to show steady, HOURLY improvement. Okay, I am hooked, the herbal medicine did more for me than the commercial ointment.
If you spend more than a few minutes in the Adirondacks you will know the most voracious predator here is not a mammal, or a reptile, but is insects. As if mosquitoes were not bad enough, you have the deer fly which seems to like flat wetlands, the horse fly, larger and with a painful vicious bite, both of which circle your head endlessly, annoyingly like the tweety birds in old cartoons when you hit your noggin. I have been known to swing my hat, my water bottle, or pick a pine bough and swing that over my head, and over the dogs, to the point where they come to me and ask for it, when the flies are stuck fat with blood on their snouts. But also the bane of Adirondack living is the hated black fly which leaves large intensely itchy bites, usually on your ears, eyebrows and neck, spawned in fast moving water, unlike mosquitoes which breed in any standing pool of water. The environment is perfect for bugs, rife with lakes, mossy bogs, swamps, wetlands, rivulets, streams, creeks, rivers, and lots of rain, there you have it, biting bugs mosquito, black fly, deer fly and horse fly (and don’t even get me started on deer ticks). When I was in South America I was astonished by the many open windows sans screens, and open bus terminals and open markets, how can you have such a thing, open windows, NO SCREENS? The screened in porch, the screened outdoor tent, designed just for sitting out of doors on a warm summer evening, absolutely ubiquitous in the Adirondacks. Air conditioners are not so much needed, because the temperature at night drops considerably, so as long as you open your windows at night (with screens) you cool what little heat there is in the house and there is little worry of night time visitors of the criminal variety, although there are bears, raccoon and fox which avoid houses with barking dogs, but love camper trash. Plus with the distance from large cities, you avoid the heat island effect, a trip to town may show a full 10 degrees or more temperature difference, the woods and lakes and streams keep it cool. Unfortunately in the Adirondacks, the insects have a blood thirsty predator which manages to slip through the small holed screens, they are called No-see-ums, and you don’t need to see them to know they are there. OUCH.
Later comes the itch.
Which is where my next salve comes in.
I have to put on a long sleeved linen shirt and the ever attractive net hat (literally the burka of the ADK’s – worn by men and women alike) and amidst picking the herbs for the salve, there is a steady sound of slapping bugs off bare legs. Fresh rosemary – grown in pots on the porch, lemon thyme, comfrey flowers and leaves, I raid her basement of a jar of dried plantain leaves, and ginger and tea tree essential oil. The smell of the herbs in oil reminds her husband of stuffing though to me it lacks sage which is the essential herb of stuffing; it has a heavenly fresh smell, a unique perfume that we both ooh and ahh over rubbing the oil on our arms. My friend watches me, while giving instructions, the first salve was more hands on from her, but not too much as she sits in a chair with her crutches propped up against the counter. But this is perfect, because I learn best by doing, ‘watching memory’ fades quickly for me, ‘doing memory’ fixes quickly. But she says to me, as I sniff the hot oil and beeswax, with the strong smell of tea tree and then hold the ginger up and sniff both, that I have a gift for this. I feel warmth from this compliment a deep warmth, that isn’t just from the ice cold chocolate vodka we are drinking, and laughing and chatting in her kitchen, while the children sleep with fans on upstairs. This is something I have always thought of doing, and spent hours as a young woman pouring over pocket herbals, and planting the right herbs in my garden, though I never did anything with them. The cauldron in my brain is bubbling. . .
I do not know, yet, how it works on itching, but it is made, and it has a lovely scent, and marvelous pale green color, but I already have plenty of bites on the backs of my knees, presumably after yesterdays 2 mile walk, and hour and a half quiet, solitary paddle.