May is upon us and we see the states who have opened up having a spike in Covid-19 cases. I am thankful we have a governor who is standing firm in keeping us closed. We are the epicenter after all. Science journalist Laurie Garrett, who predicted the pandemic in 1994 suggest we may be dealing with Covid-19 for the next three years.
Hiddenbrooke, my herb garden, after three years, now has my Family of Herb Plants. At Groundwork in Wappinger, my former herb garden, I used a cultivator to remove the first layer of soil before I planted. At Hiddenbrooke, I have chosen to cover the beds in black plastic to kill the grass and remove it by hand. The challenge now is the grass growing back and Mugwort. So far I have cleared the Mint beds, which were challenged by grass and other weeds last year. Sage bed is challenged by Mugwort at one end. Currently, I’m working on St. Johnswort bed, removing grass. Hiddenbrooke, which is a mile in from the main road at the foot of the mountain, appears to be its own ecosystem. We have Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Deer, Fox and Groundhog. Plants like Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae) that have thrived elsewhere, struggle to gain footing. Someone is eating Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae). I realize I’ve been OCD checking for growth on Anise Hyssiop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae). As a forest dweller, I realize, the leaf cover aids her growth. I now want to leave Anise Hyssop and Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae) (another forest dweller) to their own devices. I will plant more Skullcap this season, though. Many plants appeared to come up, but ultimately the bed did not fill out. At least I get to have the journey indefinitely this time.
I have three members in the community garden at SDG. Three lovely women with whom it is a pleasure to work. The garden was cleaned so quickly I didn’t know what to do with myself. We have planted
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Chamomile, Chamaemelum mobile, Asteraceae, Nigella, Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae and Poppy, Eschscholzia California, Papaveraceae as a Wildflower bed
Radish, Raphanus sativa, Brassicaceae
Carrot, Daucus carota, Umbelliferae
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa, Asteracaceae
Spinach, Spinacia oleracea, Chenopodiaceae
Kale, Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae
We are going to plant lots of herbs this season as one of the new members is an herbalist. What fun to geek out on herbs! We have Motherwort volunteers all over the garden so have extended the Motherwort bed to transplant them out of the vegetable beds. We also have Catnip throughout the garden and are transplanting them into a bed also.
White Pine Community Farm is the resident farm at A Farm for All! (AFFA) (afarmforallnys.org). White Pine is primarily an herb farm, but also has a micro greens operation. It is fairly difficult to make a living as an herb farm. Micro greens are a money maker. White Pine has perennial herb beds and after reorganizing AFFA in 2019, three of us in the Core (four of us) has had to step in to manage the herb farm. We offer an Herbal CSA which can continue through mail order and have received funding for Solidarity Shares. With Farmers Markets considered essential, we can still distribute the herbs to our three sites. I have spent the last two weeks cleaning Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis, Labiatae) and Phil has been cleaning Anise Hyssop bed.
I’ve discussed my journey in past blog posts. I am a simpleton and have no need for material things beyond food, shelter and water. Every year is a hustle to get back outside. My mantra is “finance my life outside.” So far so good, twelve years outside, ten years with land. In 2017, I began working with AFFA and Wildseed (www.wildseedcommunity.org) and have had the opportunity to dream bigger, big land. As one travels upstate, the lands open up. AFFA is forty acres with a mountain and Wildseed is 180 acres. Wildseed has not developed as much as AFFA, but they have held a Youth Immersion for the past three years, the first of which I taught an herb class. 2020 is the first year at AFFA that I get to breathe (organizing the space was all consuming), look around and have a season. Office work in a good place, I can now go outside and manage the space as an extension of my herb garden. AFFA is an hour away from Beacon which is why I have my gardens in Beacon. After propagating in the greenhouse and cleaning the Lemon Balm bed, the three of us hiked up the mountain to harvest Ramps (Allium tricoccum, Amaryllidaceae) a native sweet green that I sauté to eat with rice and kidney beans. We harvested a couple of years ago, but the stands were small, but now they’ve flourished. I then went to the wild Nettle patch to harvest Nettle tops for soup. Along the way I can photograph Trillium (Trillium cernuum, Melanthiaceae) and munch on Trout Lily leaves (Erythronium americanum, Liliaceae). We have ten or so beds of perennial herbs that will have to be cleaned. My personal growth is organic, which is slower than the Establishment, but rich in engagement with Spirit.
St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Guttiferae, Perennial, Turtle Island
I found five species including St. Johnswort in two Florida native plant books. Traditional herb books place St. Johnswort origin in Europe to Central China. We work to also restore the value of Turtle Island plants due to cultural bias. One would think that Turtle Island was a wasteland before colonization. St. Johnswort has been an ally for body pain since I started farming. The flower oil is used topically for muscle ache and her tincture is an anti-depressant found over the counter in pill form as well. Used together is ecstasy. When I began farming, I immediately experienced back pain. I already knew of St. Johnswort and in the morning on my way to Stone Barns, I rubbed the oil on my back and started to take St. Johnswort tincture three times for the day. By mid-morning a giggle escaped my lips and I knew it was my ally St. Johnswort. Use the tincture sparingly as it can increase sensitivity to the sun. Also known as St. Joanswort in the Wise Woman World to honor our heroine Joan of Arc.
Mid-May and the season is afoot. Half way to the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. We now know what crops we will have - a full season of food and medicine. As we head down to Summer Solstice we see gratitude on the horizon. At the very lest amidst Covid-19, we can get outside and continue our relationship with Earth, our Mother, provider, sustainer. Happy growing!