Archive for June, 2011


Invasive Plants.

This term will strike fear into any Naturalist, Gardener or Environmentalist. Many approach this concept with the same fervor that is raging on our border with Mexico over border crossings occurring there. I have known many a fine Naturalist and lover of plants to turn cold, hard and glassy-eyed at the mention of Garlic Mustard, Multiflora Rose or Japanese Knotweed.

These same people organize and participate in weekend rally’s to pull out and “fight back” against these plants that are deemed invasive. I watch them tear these plants out by the roots while cursing under their breath. After the organized rallies, I’ve even seen them erect signs over plastic bags full of torn up invasives that essentially say – let this death and destruction be a lesson to all who dare to crowd out our beloved native plants.

Somehow I felt this was out-of-place in the environmental community, which I count myself a part of. Having studied with a number of fine herbalists who feel that the plants that grow in your back yard grow for a reason, and usually because you particularly need what they have to offer, it made me particularly pleased to see at this years International Herbal Symposium, the concept presented of Invasive Plant Medicine(s), from a book of the same name from Acupunturist and Herbalist Timothy Lee Scott. I planned to attend some of his classes offered at the IHS, but made it to none, having fallen prey to the charms of  the other equally fascinating classes. So, I settled for speaking with the author personally on a break, and then buying his book,. Tim is a sweet, intelligent, and well-informed author who has studied with Stephen Harrod Buhner as well. I continue to be thrilled with their contributions to our health and understanding of plants, and feel this is an incredible concept to get out to the Naturalist/Gardener/Environmentalist (N/G/E) community.

Here is some of what I’ve learned in the past and present about the subject. Many of these plants were originally intentionally imported for a specific helpful function, and they thrived so well they began overtaking some of the “native” species. Hence the problem. However, what Mr. Lee details is how many of these maligned species are actually powerful herbal remedies for some of the pandemic diseases that have appeared around the same time as the plants. Plants appearing specifically to help the human race at just the right time. Again the concept of a plant growing naturally when and where needed. What if instead of over-harvesting some of our rarer plants for herbal medicine, we investigated harvesting these non-native invasive species for medicine and food? Accepting more of the gifts that plants offer us, perhaps it will help us as a society to give back and nourish the Green Kingdoms.  When something is healing you, you tend to want it to stick around and thrive, hopefully in concert with many other fine plant species. Look for what is growing outside your back (or front) door.  Maladies such as Lyme’s Disease that have spiraled out of control in the same areas where these invasive plants are spiraling out of control, have some relief for us in the form of herbal remedies of invasive plants.

He also points to a chemical industry that encourages environmentally minded people, who normally shun herbicides completely, to see invasive non native species as the exception and use these toxic chemicals as a hard choice solution. My feeling is that there is misleading advertising and publicizing by these mega-chemical companies to confuse the general public into buying RoundUp and other chemicals to toxify their environment and eventually themselves, ignoring the gifts of these invasive species.

People who have suffered long-term consequences with Lyme’s Disease, heavy metal toxicity, West Nile Disease, TB or the one of the numerous strains of Flu, will benefit by considering whether these plants can pick up where conventional medicine leaves off. There is convincing evidence and case histories showing tremendous relief and sometimes apparent resolution of disease, when used in the treatment of these diseases. There are other benefits, for example the potential of biomass fuel from Japanese Knotweed (also indicated in the treatment of Lyme’s disease) which is an extremely prolific plant considered a weed, a pest and an invasive alien. A solution to dependence on foreign oil?

This concept of seeing the benefit that comes from contact with different plants, learning from new forms of plant life that we were formerly unfamiliar with. Does this have a parallel in terms of our human condition, regarding tolerance, understanding and benefiting from each other’s vastly different experiences?

I just returned last night from the International Herbal Symposium. It was incredible.

To be with 700 people who think like you do, care about the same kind  of things you do, who are connected and put together like you are,  who see the world through the same lens you do, well, it’s just nourishing. There were scientists, mycologists, veterinary herbalists, botanists, shamans, and healers of all kinds. If I wanted to feel connected, I got it there. It wasn’t a specific person, although the priceless feeling of connecting with old friends, teachers, cohorts and associates was part of it.
It was the even deeper reconnection with the plant world. I was going to say “green plants” but then I remembered our keynote speaker, Paul Stamets. He is a scientist who wrote “Mycelium Running” and by the end of his presentation he had convinced me that mushrooms really are going to save the world, get us out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

They are already curing cancer at a miraculous rate – talk to any oncologist, who apparently know all about it already. They can clean up toxic waste – although seriously, why do we keep having to find ways to clean up toxic “spills” ? I’d love to live in a world where people are smart enough to not have toxic waste that the plant world has to help us clean up – again.

But seriously the list of things that fungi do is too extensive to list here. (Don’t forget Penicillin.)That’s the thing about plants. They don’t yell,well, not with vocal cords, they don’t bite, unless you count Stinging Nettles and Multiflora Roses…well okay maybe they do have ways of communicating with us.

If only we’d listen.


Well, some people are listening and have been listening for a very long time.

And boy do I love spending time with others like me.

And my listening just got another shade deeper, more real, and more pertinent to my life, this weekend.

Fathering

Fathers, and sons who will likely one day be fathers.

I know today is the day that everyone is thinking about them, so I’ll add a few thoughts to the mix.

One thing I think is that its always a good time to appreciate someone who helped bring you into this world. Appreciation is in style and Fathers are not only (but they certainly include) those related by blood. There is a term “mentoring” that I’ve heard kicked around lately.

The Oxford dictionary definition of mentor is: “An experienced and trusted advisor”.

On this Father’s Day, in addition to honoring the man who gave us his genetic structure, it’s a great time to look around you and think of who in your life is “an experienced and trusted advisor”.  Mentoring in our society isn’t always recognized as such, and unfortunately, some historically trusted male mentors have been found out recently to have abused their roles, so we as a culture have pulled back from trusting our children to be safe and nurtured appropriately with anyone but the most trusted advisors.  However, as adults, which most of the people reading this are, you have appropriate boundaries and are safe to decide who to appreciate and name as mentors/those who have had some kind of fathering role in your life.

It’s a great exercise to take a look at those figure(s) in your life who have proven themselves as experinced and trusted advisors. They may not even be male. The thing about motherhood is that it’s associated with the act of giving birth and with women. Now there may be people in your life who have “birthed” you into a new phase of your life, male or female, who in some ways were manifesting the nurturing, creative spirit of Motherhood.  They are like mothers to you in a way different than what your biological mother can be.

Fatherhood can also be about basic genetic biology, or it can broaden to include  those who have mentored you, for however brief or lengthy period of time they crossed paths with you. It might be a coach from grade school who gave you an understanding of confidence or neighborhood politics, a neighbor who gave you your first job raking leaves and showed you the value of work and feeling valued for that work, or in a different way, the person who sits next to you the first time you brave going into a big city and get on a Subway, who actually gives you accurate instructions for how to navigate, and directions in a scary new city.

However, nothing matches the debt of gratitude and life due to those men who call themselves our Fathers, those who raised us and committed to provide and care for in good times and bad.

Thank you Dad.

Nourishing and enrichening

Some of the most beneficial plants I know

Today I’d like to share a great way to nourish the plants growing in your yards.

Get to know them. Help others to get to know these plants.

17 years ago, I cultivated a plot of Stinging Nettles in my backyard. They are an incredibly nourishing perennial (weed?) and I felt lucky to be living near where they grew wild.  By cultivating a plot in my yard, I didn’t have to go all the way down to the river to get my nettles, and then I’d know for sure that they weren’t sprayed with anything. Well, that is until the one neighbor mistook them for monster Godzilla weeds taking over the town, and that was years ago now. Actually, I didn’t know how large and wide the Nettles would grow. They started out as a couple 6 or 8 inch high sprouts dug up from the waters edge one day when I realized that my perpetually wet back lawn had conditions that Nettle would like to grow in – wet soil, clay, rich from years of rainwater flowing through. I prepared the ground, went to the river and asked the plants if they would be okay with me moving them back to my yard. When I felt a “yes”, I carefully brought home a couple of plants. They grew into the huge patch you see in these pictures. I harvest them every year to brew fantastic tasting and the most nourishing tea/infusion you’ll ever find, as well as a great steamed herb. Cooking takes away the stinging part of Stinging Nettles.

At some point I want to share how to ask plants questions like is it okay to move you, but for now, how would I help passerbys to know that these fantastic plants are not weeds, and not to touch. They don’t call them “Stinging Nettles” for no reason.

I decided to make a sign.

A start!

Stinging Nettles Rock!

It’s a little bit rudimentary looking, but it gets the idea across. If people like it I’ll paint a really nice one. So how did Nettles end up here?

I’m delighted to think maybe others will start revisualizing their backyards in a new inherently beneficial way to utilize the natural beauty and richness in this good soil and air.

I've already harvested the 1st cutting

Here is the view from the little parking area next door. I do hope they like it and appreciate that while it may not win any signmaking awards, it’s an attempt to reach out and connect with the people in my neighborhood, and to spread more understanding and ideas to nourish ourselves as a community.

Now if only the loud vehicles would stop zooming by, I could get some peace and quiet here. Couldn’t the nice people with the loud trucks and motorcycles tone it down? I love the peaceful feeling of a summer’s evening, everything slowing down and a cool breeze blowing through the open windows…

Time to sit with the Nettles again.

Picture from early May - all much bigger now

A little Garden out back

Sustainable. Maybe this is an idea whose time has FINALLY truly come. Yes it’s something we all have heard batted around in the media, but how many of us were actually living it day-to-day? When I was young and idealistic in college, I remember thinking that everyone must know these principles – that you must give back to and nourish the system you are part of.

I have an idea. That even as good as or better than buying local and organic (two very important concepts I support wholeheartedly) that we each have mini-farms in our backyards. To me some of the most distressing things happening around me is watching people spray poisons on their perfectly fertile lawns, poisons which are going to end up somewhere else once it rains, poisons that interrupt the lives of wildlife or beneficial insects who happen to wander in from outside the perimeter, who might in fact be happily visiting my organic, sustainable happy little mini-farm before they decide to wander off without awareness of what property lines mean in terms of differing philosophies and different applications of those philosophies.

Why would you poison things to then encourage a uniform monoculture of a Kentucky grass that we can’t eat, utilize or benefit from? We even then have to mow it every week for half the year, sweating away in a mind numbing racket of motor and blades spinning. What if this same sterile lawn were transformed into a mini-farm, a garden, a cacophony of species and color and edible usable delights? What if there were plants that grew easily and naturally with very little effort and no need to poison everything in an effort to keep out undesirables? What if you simply cooked and ate the “weeds” or used them, dried and steeped for a nourishing tea or distributed dry throughout your cabinets, to repel ants from the kitchen? Lemon balm is great for that.

How about if you had liver tonics in the spring and fall from these weeds, as well as salad greens all spring summer and fall, and hair tonics to bring more shine to your mane? Dandelion is one of the most nutritious, packed with minerals and vitamins plant I know of. Plus, you can’t beat that yellow flower for cheerfulness after a long winter! Mood elevator! Who needs pills!

I’ve realized lately that maybe the average person doesn’t know as much about these things as I assumed so many years ago when I was learning and thought everyone around me must be learning about these things too, or they must already know them.
Cause no-one would want to miss out on how to live in harmony, connected, tuned in and utilizing everything around them, saving money and time and effort and oh yes, by the way its good for the ecosystem too. The one we live, eat and breathe in, play in and raise our children in. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Stinging Nettles are a great source of nourishment

Stinging Nettle garden - perennial and self seeding.

My girls' gifts to the world

Eggs are a miracle of creation

So, today my baby girl chicks gave me egg #2.

Talk about CONNECTION! What a feeling to pick up a warm egg, after hearing one of my girls gleefully crow with pride and delight – “I DID THIS! This is MY CREATION! Hear me roar!” I rushed out a few times after hearing this roar this morning to look in the dog house, the chosen “private place” where the girls are going when they feel the call of  wild egg creationism. I have fluffed the area with the soft yellowing dry stalks of plants that my neighbor was going to compost – like hay but thicker and softer. The hens love it.

When I went out the first two times and knelt down crawled in a bit and peered in the dark. Nothing.

But I realized that this dog house is like a sacred temple now, like a kiva or a sweat lodge or a tipi, which one can only enter by getting low and humble or bowing first. Cool.

Since there was no sign of anything oval inside the dog house, I went off to do chores.

Soon, the grandmother arrived. Human Grandmom, that is, my mom.  Who is also very proud. Eager to see the First Egg from yesterday, she oooed and ahhhed over it, then asked to see the creators themselves.

Whose egg was it? I’m still not sure. The great thing about a flock is that they all seem to share the good and the bad parts – they all seem both excited and interested in this new development – the egg.

So, out we went, and once more I knelt down humbly and crawled in.

Sacred space.

There it lay, like a diamond in the rough, like a golden orb of light, like an egg.

Edible, nutritious and delicious. What an amazing miracle.

I gently picked it up and took a breath, turning slowly and feeling glad to be alive.

Talk about connection. To our food. To our animal friends. To the world around us. To our neighborhood.
This is what I need to nurture, getting and staying connected to where my nourishment comes from.

How are you nourished? Are you connected to the source of your nourishment?

Relax

In repose, our creativity is nourished. 
In relaxing, our bodies are nurtured and healed. 
In stilling our minds, we find peace.