Changing Seasons · Garden · Nature · On Being Green · Painting · The three R's

Renewal

On our way out to an island in Maine the trees were not yet showing signs of spring, but by our return trip the forsythia was blooming in Albany and the willows had gone from gold to green. Maine for me was wonderful, I am certain it was not so wonderful for the man, and for my friend.  Dog ate a toy and managed to barf on a white rug and a brand new mattress.  Of course after that she was fine, she doesn’t barf a lot so of course she had to christen the new furnishings.  grr.  But for me the peace of painting in a place, outside, despite cold temps, downright drizzle and brutal wind.  My legs cold through and my left fingers icy from holding the palette.  Upon return and viewing this work with the work of last summer I am super pleased with this new body of work.  I am really looking forward to the summer when I can go back and paint more.  There were several sites I would like to sit and paint from, just from the brief tour we had by our hosts.

I wandered around my yard on Easter Sunday after two days of spring cleaning, still utterly not complete, and noticed the tulips pushing their heads up past the mud and coal ash.  The tips of the elderberry bushes have started to bud, the rhubarb with its dark green leaves is growing beautifully.  The crocus and hyacinth are blooming, though my transplanted grape hyacinth is not too happy with life just now.  The tansy and the comfrey are looking healthy, and my transplanted lilies look like they just might bloom.

The man made a compost tumbler out of an old dryer drum.  So impressed, he is really an artist in a way, he can fix anything, he can cobble together anything.

The dogs, particularly Marley the little beast, ran to the neighbors house for cookies.  Following L. into her kitchen while I shot the breeze with M. who lifted the lid of his grill to show me Easter dinner, roast venison on a spit wrapped in bacon.  “This is what rednecks eat for Easter he said deprecatingly, though I did not say it, I thought this is what I would consider a superior culture.  He again iterated my option to walk his land and gather plants from his property, along with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, as my man says, M. likes me because he usually doesn’t let anyone on his property.  We talked about natural dyes.  He thought I said natural guys.  So we made a few jokes about manscaping, and ear whiskers….

I looked up the possibility of using rhubarb leaves for dying wool, high in oxalic acid, I think it would be cool to mix them with pokeweed which grows in abundance in the yard, nettles or maybe sumac.  My summer project slowly forming.

I spun my white wool for a while and finished a recycled sari silk scarf.  STILL trudging away at the brown and white log cabin weave on my 32” Ashford.  Blah.  So dull and my tension is wonky and annoying.  So much to do for spring.  So very little time in the day.

 

 

Cooking · Dogs. · Eating Locally · Garden · Healthy Eating · On Being Green · Small Joys

Embracing All of This

The dog asks to go out into the bright morning, and I climb back into bed grateful she wants to come in too, it is so cozy and I begin to drift off but there is a nagging sensation that I have forgotten something.  It is an hour before I realize it is Saturday and I am down to three radishes, a dozen and a half eggs, a lemon and a handful of wilted scallions in the fridge.  

I park in the shadow of a tractor trailer without it’s tractor and open the windows half way.  I am still saying there should be designated dog parking all summer long.  It is only 68, this is the only shade anywhere. How hard would it be, to make a corner of the lot safe for those who are out with their pets?

Now later I feel such a sense of peace and contentment.  There is a moment at which you find yourself, in a place where everything comes together and begins to make sense.  It is really just an inkling, but it is there and it feels like it will become more profound.  

I would not have this home, nor my yoga teacher without my ex husband.  I would not have this belief in my personal strength and integrity without the pirate nor would I have known that the problem was not with me with regards to our difficult relationship, would not have my daughter if it were not for her father… you get the picture.  I would not be cleaning my house organically and with such a small footprint without A.  and a Tau sister I lived with who reminded me that there was a time when this was what I did.  Oh. Yes.  The dogs at my side, my ex again, and a Tau sibling.  I feed them pea pods, blueberries, strawberries and sour cherries.  The pup putting her paw on my knee, asking for more.  What would my life feel like without them?

I wash and cut and prepare my fruit and vegetables.  Storing some in freezer bags, some in the fridge.  I slice cucumbers, the little ones with no seeds, and poor hot vinegar over them, cutting up cilantro and parsley from my garden, trimming lettuce to put it on later, with chickpeas.  

My sour cherry jam is boiling away on the stove and fresh homemade scones baking in the oven. A lifetime of having to live poor, now coming to fruition through living clean.  My six face cords of wood on order, I look at this wood stove and do math in my head, 75 dollars a month to be warm all winter.  Sometimes my gas bill was as high as 350 dollars a month, and that is cheap.  I really can get used to this.

I embrace this, it is perfection.  What a gift.  I am filled with gratitude.  

 

Flowers · Garden · Herbal Medicine · Magic · Nature · Photos · Uncategorized

Trip into Town

I am truly an introvert, these windy, sunshiney scattered shower days are so deeply quiet, so deeply fulfilling.  The neighbor, who is only here for two weeks, checks in periodically, to charge something electric, to shower with his wife and children, to ask if there is anything I need, or stops along the road to ask me if I have picked any wild blueberries yet.  Other than that my only human interaction is a phone call from my mom, to my daughter, the pirate in his way only answers his phone, he is incapable of calling.  The counselor told me, before I left to plan outings into public, but I hardly need it, I am feeling astonishingly strong and deeply moved, and touched by mother earth.  Herons abound.
But each time I venture into one of the towns nearby, I am rewarded with just the right things.  Today I am absolutely dizzy with congestion in my sinus, I found eucalyptus rub, and a book by Rosemary Gladstar, outlining several of her herbal remedies that are in the correspondence course on loan from my friend.  Oh yes and wasabi, ginger chocolate truffles.

COLTSFOOT
Colstfoot leaves ( I believe)
calendula
Calendula Flower
herbalremedy
Barkeaters Chocolates and Funny River Trading, both local businesses.

 

I have loved the quiet, and the long walks with the dogs, and the breeze keeping the bugs at bay.  Especially the breeze keeping the bugs at bay.

Today I raided my friend’s cupboards, pulling out skullcap and lobelia, and vodka to make tinctures with fresh herbs from her garden, some to dry on her screen, though she has plenty of all jarred in the basement.  Tomorrow I have to go and get more vodka, I used up the last drops, not much more than four shots worth, but I hate to leave her empty.  These tinctures designed to help me sleep.  Plus I stole a little of her mullein oil and put some fresh mullein flowers in it, to make ear drops for my daughter, who suffered terribly with ear infections as a baby, and still has to have the wax removed from her ears, and has frequent ear aches.

Herbal Tinctures
Herbal Tinctures

Off to deliver some cucumbers and squash to the neighbor, they will go bad before the family returns, and are more than I can possibly eat.

Fungus · Garden · Herbal Medicine · Nature · Small Joys · Strong Woman · Treasure

Glamping at Home on Wintergreen Hill

I am working diligently on studying and learning more about herbalism, using a correspondence course binder full of lessons, that A. has allowed me to peruse.  Each day I look at two or three more writing each down in my journal and drawing pictures to go with it.  It is cooler today and windy, so there are no bugs on the porch, and I sit in quiet contemplation for a couple of hours, reading, meditating, watching the wind blowing the birch and pine.  I am at first annoyed by a loud buzzing sound which I take to be ATV’s in the woods, but soon discover instead a ruby throated hummingbird, and later a grey throated female, which he promptly chases off, he visits the lavender Hosta flowers several times as I sit in the cloud filtered sunlight.  On a quest for golden seal, I have to ask her daughter to show me the fairy garden, where Lady’s Slipper and the herb I am looking for grow, though not with a great deal of lushness.  The last several dry days perhaps have not been good to these shade loving wooded plants.  I tell her, since we are out here, take me up to the glamping sight.  Glamping being glamorous camping, as if there is such a thing.

On the way up I spot this toadstool.

toadstool

And then the tent in the woods, looks ordinary on its raised platform, but it is not until I open the tent that I am visibly impressed.  Heavenly.

glampingtent glamping

 

As her daughter is using the battery operated air pump to make the bed harder, for a future stay, which I am now keen for, I explore the patchy sunlight around the sight, where I discover this plant.

 

Oh!

I remember a walk up the mountain behind my grandparents’ house, my grandfather leading the hunt, my brother and I behind him, and my father behind us.  He bent down and handed us a stick which was mildly flavored of what to me was Lifesavers candy, but to him, was this wild plant.  I pluck a leaf and crush it in my fingers, yes, the fine mild scent of wintergreen.

wild wintergreen

My friend is excited at this find, another medicinal plant right at her finger tips.

Garden · Herbal Medicine · Nature

Anti Itch Herbal Salve

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.

herbsbest

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.

No Itch Salve
No Itch Salve
Dreams · Flowers · Garden · Herbal Medicine

Creek Water Lullaby

I fall asleep to the sound of water, napping on the sunporch in the afternoon, in the dark cool bedroom at night, waking to the sound as the sun shines in the window by my head at dawn.  There is something soothing about this constant sound, something quite unlike the constant hum of traffic, and electricity and sirens and the exclamation of the occasional gunshot that is city living.  Creek water lullaby, better than the hum of my own mind, the noise it makes inside my head.

creek

And there is something else here, in this vacation designed as a way to make art, but instead I see the light of other things entering into my consciousness.  Things I am afraid to speak of, for fear of the corruption of corporate education latching on to my intellectual rebellion, and finding salvo in my words.  I am quietly absorbing words like Waldorf School, Coyote Education, Unschooling, Homeschooling, Earth Arts, Creative Pursuits, and a distinct absence of dependence on the trappings of modern culture, things like commercials, television, DEET, Twinkies, Common Core and Facebook sound foreign coming from my mouth, and my mind is tonguing the taste of something of my youthful idealism; how exactly did I move away from food cooperatives, medicinal herbs, naturalism, and environmentalism?  Where did I turn wrong, and now that I see it like an anti billboard how can I look away from it.  This hellacious year did its number on my psyche, and I am rebelling in the only way I know how, trying to find a five year plan that gets me out of it, because I suspect it will otherwise eject me from it, vomiting me out or tossing me in the trash with my archaic notion of learning for the joy rather than the pedagogy, of making art for the pleasure instead of some measurable objective tethered mercilessly to the common core.  Teaching children to think for themselves is an expense that cannot be afforded in the era of consumer capitalism, people who think for themselves will not buy into eat this and you will be thin, buy this and you will be rich, wear this and you will be beautiful, play this and you will be popular, the sponsors of our cultural solicitude cannot bear the outsider.

borageflower2 borageflower

My friend grows herbs and makes medicinal salves and ointments, and today, I gathered blue starred borage flowers, lemon yellow mullein flowers and fragrant lavender flowers for her, and laid them on a screen in the upstairs bedroom to dry.  We took the mullein flowers and put them in a double boiler with olive oil to make an ear ache medicine.  Then we put pre-prepared calendula oil, sitting on the shelf for 2 months and shaved beeswax stirring frequently until the beeswax melted and then added a few drops of lavender essential oil and poured it into small jars.  I took notes and enjoyed the exploration of the garden and learning about various uses of these specific herbs.

calendulaleaf calendulalavendersalve

We apply the finished salve, A. to her post surgical foot, me to bug bites and an odd abrasion on my ankle that is not healing particularly well, specifically because it seems to be a magnet for the toe of my other shoe to kick, regularly, and quite unexpectedly, for no apparent reason.  I have removed band aids which only seem to keep the wound open further, salve on.  Tomorrow morning I shall report the results!

Eating Locally · Garden · Musings

Garden Fresh

There is something about this community here, part poor uneducated people, part intelligent (not to say poor and uneducated are not) artisan, hippy types.  Up here most of the women my age are grey, not colored hair and giving generous people.  Oh you don’t have a roof rack, grab our kayak at this dock, use it.  Oh your dill did not come up?  Here take this giant armload full of dill from the garden.  Oh before you go, would you like some lettuce?  Here are 5 giant bunches.   Oh you spin, come join our group on Wednesday nights, this is where me meet, bring your wheel or your knitting or a drop spindle, come!  Do you need a ride? Meet me here.

Ah.

I tell my friend my fear of judgment from others, my narcissistic leanings, I have known her for years, I trust she loves me anyway.  She tells me, that is the thing up here, there are those that judge you, and you just smile and nod, but the rest, for the most part, don’t judge at all, are welcoming and want to work together.

I love this.

She has this giant garden, well more than one, and her veggie garden has been raided so often by her dogs that she had to build a fence, but rather than do so out of lumber, she has raided the forest for long branches.

gardenfence

 

And to go with my last post:

Dustin Hoffman Interview

All things melancholy · Garden

Three Sisters

The biscuits are buttered and still hot from the oven.  The rain came early today, and fell all day.  I am impatient to trudge up the hill to the garden.  I look at it from the kitchen window, as the skull of a buffalo shining white in the grey drizzle, stands watch over the rows of lettuce, celery, chard, tomatoes and peppers.  Yesterday the sunflowers were an inch high and the sharp first strands of corn sentinels on their hills.  In previous years I have planted my squash but its long vines dry long before the golden yellow blossoms turn to vegetables.  On Sunday before we left for a long drive in the sun, I was there at the hills filling in the four directions and the turned four of a compass rose as I put beans and squash all around the tips that were emerging from the dry soil.

The day was stunning, beautiful, sweet and exhausting.  The long walk left the dog hobbled as he stopped and gazed up at me several times in the last few hundred yards, the car is up ahead buddy, I promised.  The pirate moaning somewhere behind me, come on honey, it isn’t much further, you can do it.

rocksrain\

On Monday I cheerfully left for work, back barely tender, while the pirate curled under a blanket with pain killers and cold medicine.  The dog crashed out at his feet until I walked in the door again.  I rubbed his front shoulders and his old dog hips before we walked, or rather I walked and he limped to look at the sun dried earth, too early for the mickey mouse ears of new sprouts in my wide high hills.  Corn sprouts.  I text to my daughter, are yours up? She doesn’t think so, but fifteen minutes later she joyfully tells me:  YES!

The Native Americans called corn, pole beans and pumpkins the three sisters.  They planted a dead fish in their hills then the corn, then waited three days and planted their beans and squash.   I sniff the air as I watch the dog stumble down the hill, no smell of dead fish, just the rotting brains of the buffalo, but they are there, under my corn sprouts, a bullhead eight inches down, the corn three inches down.

I watch as cardinals, red winged black-birds, grackles and that unnamed bird with the reddish cap on his brown body and his two females eat at the feeder, and I look at the rain pouring down, I love the rain, because I know it will make this garden bloom.

wildcolumbine2