I returned to Sally Garden of Eden this week, social distancing. It was very hard not to hug Sally and her husband Paul, whom I love very much. I felt physically deprived. Sally Garden sits at the the top of the Shawangunck ridge with a rock face in the woods. I also began Misha English Cottage Garden this week pushing myself to five and a half hours to get the poor potted plants in the ground before June. They cried out so loudly.
I offer my Herb Family of Plants in every graden I work with, so Sally Garden has:
Anise Hyssop (already planted, now Sally’s favorite tea), Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae
Burdock (wild) Arctium minus, Asteraceae
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae
Chocolate Mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’
Peppermint, Mentha x piperita
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, Labiatae
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosum, Asteraceae
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae
Sally harvests and dries the herbs to use through Winter. So fun to label and store the herbs at the end of the season. The challenge with Sally Garden is many areas are shady so the plants aren’t flourishing as much. We decided to place the plants in “the meadow,” the sunniest spot in the garden. Last Autumn we planted Ramps and - so exciting - they are coming up! I want to plant them wherever I can! I hear a spot at the foot of a mountain calling my name..... We also found Trillium, which I have found at A Farm for All! as well. The rest of Sally garden is gorgeous perennial flowers and seven raised bed areas for vegetables.
I brought Comfrey (Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) to Misha’s garden last season and we planted them on the side of the house. They are up and happy in their spot. An English Cottage Garden is a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. A soft, free flowing mixture of flowers. As I said I went long and am totally feeling it today as I write here, but I could not let the plants that had been bought last Autumn, remain in their pots into June. I will be working in the garden monthly. The garden already has a stand of Vinca (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae). As I planted Rose (Rosa sp., Rosaceae, Asia, Turtle Island) and Clematis (Clematis sp., Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Asia), I transplanted the Vinca out of the bed to the grass slope down to the sidewalk. There is already a stand on the opposite side of the stairway that is thriving that indicates Vinca can withstand snow and salt through Winter so we want to continue the look at the bottom of the garden. Vinca along with Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, Buxaceae, Japan) were a standard estate groundcover in early America and have been naturalized. Heading up the slope we planted Daisy (Leucanthemum sp., Asteraceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe) and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ (Sedum spectacle, Crassulaceae, Perennial, Japan). Daisy and Sedum will be separated by a low white picket fence. Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) went in to the left of the stairs to the house. Hydrangea went in across the path next to Burning Bush (Euonymus alataus, Celastraceae, Shrub, Asia, Poke Forest (Phytollaca americana, Phytollacaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Spiraea (Hybrid Spiraea japonica var. alpina and S. x bulmalda ‘Goldflame’ and more Vinca. On the side of the house we planted Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Iris (Iris sp., Iridaceae, Asia) and Columbine (Aquilegia sp., Ranunculaceae, Turtle Island). Obviously, an English Cottage Garden represents the multiple cultures that the English colonized over centuries and any attempt at native planting and restoration that is my method is out the window. Misha and I’s cultural heritage in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica) are countries that were colonized by England. I was born in England so we can take aspects of our ‘Mother’ country and incorporate them into our lives as we wish. The English Cottage Garden is going to be sooooo pretty! For me opportunity to explore another type of gardening is a thrill! Zeal got the best of me and the plants wanting to be liberated from their pots, pushed me over the edge and I was worn out for two days.
It is very important to pace oneself whatever work we engage in. Unfortunately the norm is the Protestant work ethic (Max Weber The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) which I read as work oneself to death. I am a hedonist to be sure, but may I put forth a new hedonism which find pleasure in the harmony with nature. For me the Simple Life is Human 101 and reduces life to the basics - food, shelter and water and once these needs are satisfied, the rest of life is play. I moved upstate for the Simple Life. The peace and freedom that have revealed themselves is a bonus. When I call myself a simpleton, it is in reference to the Simple Life. So here I sit, aching and despondent staring mortality in the face at fifty-three, knowing I overdid it and wondering when I will know relief. I am a physical being and experience the world through my body. I ran track in high school, I commuted to work by bike and rollerblade in Manhattan over twenty years. You haven’t lived until you’ve travelled through rush hour traffic down Fifth Avenue on rollerblades! I can look back fondly now and even giggle, but today “Oh my aching hips!” I look forward to yoga this morning that can realign my mind, body and spirit. As Misha would say “growing old ain’t for sissies!”
I wish to grow old gracefully. Accept every turn and nuance. Menopause is a journey in and of itself. We don’t talk about it enough. Thankfully, our Guardian Angel, Ms. Susun Weed has written a book for us Menopausal Years The Wise Woman Way, that I can consult upon these occasions, when I am undone. Susun says menopause is a “metamorphosis, change at the cellular level.” “The matrix for the three classic stages of initiation: isolation, death and rebirth/reintegration.” Menopause is called the Change of Life and includes “three phases (before menopause, during menopause and after menopause)... each has special needs and offers special challenges.”. There is even Andropause - Male Menopause, a drop of testosterone after forty akin to women’s drop in estrogen. The problem with the Protestant Work Ethic is that all our natural processes are discarded in the pursuit of capitalism - an ecomonic system in which the production and distribution of goods depend on invested private capital and profit-making (Oxford English Dictionary). We are in an endless grind of doing, relieved only by death. I pledge to grow old gracefully, to let my natural processes guide me. I, being physical, have learned to listen to my body.
One excellent development during Covid-19 has been rising with the dawn. When Marc works, he gets on the 4:30am train to Manhattan and I drive him there. One of our goofy love rituals. Commuters have dubbed us “kiss and ride” because I hug and kiss him good-bye at the train station every morning. PDA be damned! Probably just another development under that Protestant work ethic. I would return home after dropping Marc off and write or make art in what I have come to believe are the hours of creation, one can hear creation crackle, the darkness before the dawn, the primordial oooze. I have wondered about our modern observance of time, morning being 12:00am. What if morning is dawn? Thanks to Covid-19, we get to find out. It has made for a quiet entrance into the day, doing what one finds. Sweet. I have missed the primordial oooze, though, mainly because my routine would be over by mid morning. My routine now extends into late afternoon. Marc has returned to work today and I have returned to the darkness before the dawn. I still love it.
I have always loved myself and only wanted to be accepted as I am. With the emphasis on self hatred (religion) in the modern world, there appears to be no place for a natural black woman. Cleo Manago, Behavioral Health Analyst calls the latest hair phenomena “the weave epidemic,” but I have certainly sacrificed assimilation in the process of engagement with the natural world. Black women process and/or alter their hair to procure jobs and advance in this world. But I’m solitary, Ogun, Artemis, better alone. So I have the opportunity to grow old gracefully. To explore me now in the midst of the Great Change. My memory slips away. I have aches and pains. I had a full blown physical breakdown last year after a dog tick bite, developing my belief in mind, body and spirit for health, wholeness, holiness. We are, to be sure. We enter the Earth realm numerous times, I believe. Death, like all natural processes, should be embraced, celebrated. So too, my memory loss, aches and pains. Part of the great dance of life.
It’s time to harvest Nettle friends, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Turtle Island
Hang her up to dry to make nourishing herbal infusions in six weeks. I made Nettle soup a couple of weeks ago. Nettle is also good for allergies and diabetes. Nettle has been found in Mexico dating back 8,000 years, thought to have been used for fiber. Nettle can flower anywhere from the 15th - 21st depending on the weather. One wants to get her before flower because harvested in flower can cause stomach upset.
Comfrey is next in flower. Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Europe
Curiously, individual plants are growing at different rates at Hiddenbrooke and they are all flowering much smaller due to the cooler temperatures. Comfrey is also known as knitbone and I have used dried leaf infusion for recovery after ear infection and here to soothe my aching hips. Comfrey/Plantain Salve is good for anything from insect bites to acne to cold sores.
I also want to get my first Mint harvest before flowering, Mentha sp., Labiatae, Perennial, Africa Eurasia
I cleared Mint bed, but they are also pretty low due to the cooler temperatures. I use Mint tea through the season as well as the holidays for any stomach upset, colon distress, heartburn. Mint family plants like Wild Bergamot and Anise Hyssop work wonders as well.
Welcome my two lovely gardens, Sally Garden of Eden and Misha English Cottage Garden. I can’t wait for the wonders to be discovered this season. I feel like a child in a toy store at Misha’s garden. I remembered zeal and had a glimpse of my younger self and sit here in my older self laughing to myself at the memory. This life in the natural world full of wonder and delight.