Friday, August 22, 2008
Gratitude and humility
After my last post, I was going to do a garden gush. The corn was getting tall, the tomatoes loaded down and beautiful and most of the rest of the garden doing well too. I was cutting the bottom land for mulch, everything was tied and tended. A spot had been cleared near the highway for the farm stand and we decided it's size.
Last Sunday, a 20 minute hail storm hit the big garden at Crooked Creek and we thought wiped out most of the garden for sure. In the last week, some of the plants are showing signs of recovery, but it sure didn't look hopeful when the damage was discovered. Here at the house it just rained like usual. We didn't know there was hail in the area. After our garden was hit we went to town and found out many were hit. People reported foot and half piles of hail off the roof line. Snow plows were used on one stretch. On the way out of town and back to the house we saw the worst. The damage we have sustained seemed slight and trivial. Acres and acres of corn shredded like wispy grass. Just as many soy fields destroyed beyond recognition. A neighbor told us further North, the corn stalks were stripped completely. It is a good time to reflect on humility.
Some neighbors to the Crooked Creek property stopped by a few days after the storm. They are in their 70's, have lived here their whole life and said they have never seen anything like it. She was on the front porch with the front door open when the storm started. She heard loud noise in the kitchen and said "Who is rattling around in my kitchen!!" She went inside to investigate and found that the hail storm had just started at the back of the house and she could hear it hitting the roof.
Most of the area crops that were destroyed were bearing produce since they were planted on time. Farm stands are already up with corn. Our big garden went in very late since we didn't decide to put it in until I was laid off in May. I am so grateful for that. The tomatoes will probably not recover enough to sell any, but some might be edible. The "delicate" crops of dill and cilantro did just fine. The cilantro is going to seed for Coriander and had already developed a stronger center stem. The Stevia plant looks like it must have gone on vacation and slipped back in the garden untouched, but I only have 2 of them. The corn was shredded so badly I didn't think it would recover, but in the last few days the newer leaves look good. The squash was badly beaten but some of the blossoms look OK. I don't know if the watermelon will recover, most of the leaves are gone. Overall, I feel we fared better than we would have if we had been on time. We won't be doing a farm stand this year, but we will probably be able to have produce for ourselves.
In the meantime, I have completely immersed myself in learning about healing herbs. These last few weeks, I have only felt like listening and doing; not typing. Before the garden was hit by hail, I had a severe hot flash probably with a low blood pressure and/or blood sugar drop with varying degrees of symptoms over a 20 minute period. My knees gave out from under me, I felt drunk, my head caught on fire and then I was freezing. I could barely see and it was hard to talk. It was frightening to have no control over my body. I did some deep breathing and relaxed while it passed.
I have always been interested in healing herbs and plants. Last month some time I found Susun Weed's website. After my introduction to menopause, 2 other friends also suggested her. When the garden was pulverized, I dove into reading her site and free info. I bought one of her books and am devouring it. I have made a few quarts of herbal tinctures and vinegars. From another source I learned about herbal oils and made plantain oil to put into beeswax if I find some, but just the oil may be sufficient.
We decided not to mow the yard and I just scythe when I feel like it and keep the paths up some. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives. Our friend that makes the jewelry (and recommended Susun Weed) showed me Mother's Wort growing on the property. I immediately read all I could about the plant. It is mentioned frequently in the herbal book I am reading. It's also an herb to help with menopause symptoms, along with many others and is for men too. There is also a lot of plantain going to seed here near the house. The tinctures, vinegars and oil were made from the herbs right here growing in the yard. I will be able to try them in 5 weeks. I am blessed with two friends that know a lot about herbs and wild edibles and have gotten me swiftly to this point. The other day, he went to Crooked Creek with us and his field guide (I am waiting for the used one I bought online to arrive). We had so much fun learning about the plants that live there. For me, the jewelweed was the most fun with it's popping seed pack.
I read that Plantain seeds are a great EFA source and my patch of Plaintain that has remained unmowed for a long time has tall, gorgeous riping seed stems. I"ve been running my finger down the stem to grab the seeds as I pass by. Wait till the seeds easily come off the stem, 1 - 2 Tablespoons per day. I really encourage everyone to get a field guide and let part of your yard "go" and just see what pops up. Might be something you need!
During the herbal reading, I discovered that vinegar is a good hair rinse. Since I wash my hair with soap, I thought I'd give it a try. Use 2 Tablespoons to 1 Cup of warm water. It worked wonderfully. They say it can help dandruff and other hair problems and is a natural de-tangler. I used Apple Cider Vinegar and my scalp very lightly tingled and it was easier to comb out. It can be rinsed out of the hair, but it's better to leave it in. The smell will dissipate. A health food store went out of business and a friend of ours gave us big bags of herbs. One of those bags was nettle. I've had it sitting around since she gave it to me a few months ago unsure what to do with it. During the hair rinse reading, I found a recipe for nettle hair rinse. Loosely fill a glass jar to 3/4 with dried stinging nettle. Fill jar with apple cider and let it sit for a week or two and strain. I tried it today and just love it. It smells a bit strong undiluted, but give it a shot.
Our friend said something like "the plants growing in your yard are the ones you need." It's getting harder and harder to mow when I recognize the herbal paradise I have growing under my feet fertilized by Rufus the pig as he nibbles during the day. They now feel like friends I'm getting to know.
The friend that has been teaching me so much and that I have referred to often here, made for me a "wise woman" necklace. It is symbolic for me from the material to the design and is something I have been looking for, an outward reflection of my inner direction. A physical reminder what is important. It's stone has a perfect weight and feel to it. When I wear it, I'm reminded to take my studies seriously, not stressfully. There is so much that I don't know and so much free knowledge for the taking and I should not treat it as if it's cheap. This is invaluable, priceless information and I can't wait to read and learn all I can about plants.
We were recently taught about the fireless cooker, also called the "Wooden Wife from Wyoming". Jeffrey built a simple one for us to use. It's just a box with a lid on it. Here are the instructions that I copied.
"Take a double armful of alfalfa hay. Take a pail of water. Take a straight-sided kettle, and a wooden box like an ammunition box. Wet the hay, handfuls at a time, and tamp a layer firm and flat in the bottom of the box (from another source, about 4-5 inches). Place the kettle on the hay, and pack wet hay all around between the kettle and the box. Then set the whole affair aside for about a week, until the tightly packed hay dries out (I would suggest a sunny place, ours wasn't fully dry left on the cooler porch). Then the kettle will slip in and out of its hay nest next perfectly.
Now, if you are in a hunters' camp, fix up a stew in the kettle. Bring it to a boil over the fire, and then put it in it's hay nest. Leave it all day, and it will simmer and cook for hours. cowboys and sheepherders used to do this when they wanted a good warm meal waiting for them after a day in the saddle. They called this contraption the "Wooden Wife from Wyoming", and when they returned they would find it had cooked their eveing meal for them!"
Another article said to line the sides and bottom with heavy paper. They also suggested making a hay pillow for the top. I took an old pillow case and stuffed it with hay so that the space between the pot and the lid were filled. If you are going to try this, make sure to bring your food to a boil first and let it cook for 10-20 minutes over a fire or on the stove first (depends on what you are cooking). Some people also use a heating stone for the bottom. I have a sheet of cooking times and ours takes longer. I think we don't have it insulated well enough or should try lining it with thick paper as was suggested. I cook pinto beans in mine and just let it sit overnight. Here are some sample cook times.
Beet greens, boil 10 min on stove, 3 hours in fireless cooker
Dried beans (I soak ours first overnight), boil 20 minutes, overnight in fireless cooker
Cabbage, boil 15 min on stove, 5 hours in fireless cooker
Asparagus, boil 5 min on stove, 14 hours in cooker
Rice 1 cupful, 4 cups of water, 5 min boiling, 3 hours in cooker
Okra Gumbo, 20 min on stove, 6 hours in cooker
The garden here at the house looks great. Here is a shot of the tomatoes.
Mr. Hobbs kitty died sometime this morning. We found him on the porch which the cats all used for their lounge. He was a big handsome boy, a gentle giant. Everyone that met Mr. Hobbs loved him. I remember when my nephews stayed with me once, Mr. Hobbs would let Sebastian lug him around like a sack of potatoes and wherever Sebastian was, Mr. Hobbs was close by. We always joked that he was wearing his best suit when someone would come to visit since his markings looked like a tuxedo. He would get so nervous walking through doorways and his tail would twitch.
He joined my household in October 2001 as tiny little kitten. It was cold outside and I could hear little kittens crying. I looked and looked and couldn't find them. It was really cold that night and I hoped they would be OK. The next night, I hear an insistent kitten. I went outside with the flash light and there he was at the fence crying to get in. No sign of his mother or the other kitten that had been crying with him the night before. So I hopped the fence to bring him inside and he's been with me since.
We buried him this morning on top of the hill under a tree and covered the spot with the stones. I'm grateful that this unique little person was part of my life