High winds took out some fencing at SDG. It was the second high wind day of the season. I wonder if Mama is pushing pollution around and out? The Himalayas can be seen for the first time in thirty years due to the lockdown. Weather has stabilized to Spring temperatures with April showers here and there. It is cooler than last year by about ten degrees.
April is cleaning in the gardens. Removal of last seasons dead stems from perennials. At SDG, because I have now three members, I have the time to remove debris that has accumulated over the past years. I have spent my growing self acquiring free land because I wanted to explore the Native American belief of “we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us.” I have also spent my life making it up as I go along and I have come to believe that it is they way of Spirit. Now, the Establishment is an artificial construct placed over Spirit that has built homes, roads, cars, planes, bridges, boats, utilities, entertainment, etc. but as we are being rudely awakened during this pandemic, we find that the Establishment seeks to hoard this artificial construct and leave the majority of people out. Never mind that the companies the Establishment has cannot run without people. They like to threaten us with AI, but they will always need technicians to repair the AI. It will never run without humans. We rush, as usual - into technology, intellectual pursuit leaving behind basic humans needs like love and compassion for a cold artificial world based on intellect. Human contact is a basic human need. Nature is a human need. We cannot live without either one. We are as intrinsic to the natural world as any creature.
I don’t engage in the status quo. I do not own a home, I do not have children. I watched a retro movie Take me Home Tonight with college graduates and the main characters found the status quo a trap. I like to think “misery loves company.” We get pressured into the house, two cars, two kids and a dog and then have to spend our lives as wage slaves to maintain it. A status quo that has also been hoarded for white people. Black and brown folks are subject to predatory practices to acquire what is now generational wealth. I believe generational wealth is a fundamental loss of faith in Earth’s ability to sustain us.
I moved upstate becasue I wanted to grow my own food and medicine. I left the boroughs with just a job on a farm. I did not know the notion of free land could even be entertained and even when the idea of land came up for me, I wondered if I even wanted the responsibility. In 2011, I acquired three spaces to create gardens, just like that - a snap of the fingers.
I am childlike. Herbalism opens the door to the fairy realm and wood creatures - sprites, gnomes, elves, fairies, animals, insects, rocks become one’s companions. Magic (read miracle in the religious realm) is at our fingertips. We are hard pressed to describe through science the actions of our plant family. And if we did, it would be regulated by the Establishment, therefore taken out of the hands of the people. Plant medicine is people’s medicine, inexpensive and often free. So in acquisition of these free lands, I am zealous. I plunge headlong into developing my relationship with my Plant Family and it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to communication with the land owner.
I am dedicated to the development of community. It was the first lesson I had to learn when I moved upstate. In the boroughs of New York City, one can and it is encouraged, to be an individual. Six million people and one still has the opportunity to be an individual. Moving upstate, however, the spaces between each other open up and without community, it becomes very cold very fast. As I have mentioned, I worked for Pete Seeger for four years. I was also a part of Common Fire, an intentional community. From Pete I learned “power to the people.” Through Common Fire I learned that community happens, intentional or not.
My development as a person has been organic. I don’t “keep up with the Joneses.” One thing I have learned as an herbalist is engagement with Spirit which allows for organic growth which is slooooooowwwww. One can watch oneself grow organically. I like to say organic growth is a quarter note in a bar of music in 4/4 time and the Establishment is a whole note. Organic growth is steady, regular, always and no matter how many artificial constructs we place over it, it is. Look at Spring. Spring has sprung without a doubt regardless of whether we are on lockdown or not. There is no stopping the rain, clouds, dawn, waves etc. I am the Wise Woman Tradition, which always has been and always will be. Organic growth is the undercurrent through every age on the planet. Harmony with nature, community is all an organic experience. These things happen through Empire rise and fall. We can count on organic experience. We can count on harmony with nature, community. It is all we have had, all we have, all we will ever have.
Free land develops communication. I have to communicate transparently because otherwise it will lead to miscommunication and uncomfortable relations. I have lost two gardens in my ten years. My zeal has pushed me headlong into relationship with my Plant Family without consideration for my Human Family, but here at the ten year mark and with A Farm for All! (www.afarmforallny.org) in a good place, I’m finding the grace to develop communication in all the spaces to which I have access. I feel practiced. My work, I’ve been told is Way of the Heron (Evan Pritchard, Center for Algonquin Culture) and definitely Be Present (Lillie Allen, www.bepresent.org). The challenge, and I believe they have evolved in this order is gender, class and race. Race is relatively new in comparison to gender and class which were easily the first recognizable differences in our human family. In the Wise Woman Tradition, we know woman like Mother Earth, life giver, sustainer, reproducer, was the ruler and perhaps became tyrannical after ruling too long (absolute power corrupts absolutely), not unlike men today, which if it is true, we formally apologize here. Herstory speaks of men cutting off their genitals to lay on the altar of the Goddess, not unlike our breast and uteri today on the altar of the medical God. And of course, once a chief was named, her family easily became revered and privileged above everyone else creating a class structure through their advisors, soldiers, etc.
Now race is another matter. Civilization occurred in Africa, Asia, Turtle Island and it wasn’t until the fair skinned people were apparently pushed into the caves of Europe that race became a thing. European history starts at year one CE - which is the very reason why we have BCE and CE - because the Europeans can’t fathom the idea that anything came before them. BCE (before the common era) is 300,000 to 500,000 years. BCE and CE are preceded by BC (before Christ) and AD (after death) to signify the life of Jesus Christ who was the savior for Christians who split from Judaism. So we find ourselves here, where slights, disrespects, hatred, have led to rape, pillage, murder, kidnapping, genocide, war as the norm today. We are 7.5 billion people. There is conversation around 4.5 billion being the carrying capacity of the planet and I believe the Establishment believes it, which is why their acceptance of “collateral damage” through this pandemic not to mention war, seems callous. We have been “fruitful and multiplied” to the point where we can stand to lose nearly half of us and still function. Imagine humans in demand. The influenza pandemic took 2.5% of the population. That’s 187.5 million people today.
I open up Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Elecampane beds at Hiddenbrooke. Forest dwellers, I wonder if my poking around and looking for new growth hinders their growth? I have obsessive, compulsive disorder to be sure. Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Echinacea are my greatest challenges to establish. There is Anise Hyssop growth and there was wind that blew the leaves back in place. We’ll see. No Skullcap growth. I have yet to clear Echinacea bed to see if there is new growth. I have a tray of plants ready to transplant and I am cold stratifying the next tray of plants. To cold stratify, one places the seeds in a, in my case a rectangular Kord Fiber pot, (www.fedcoseeds.com), wrap them in plastic and place them in the refrigerator for seven days. I also have Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed in the fridge for ten days and fourteen days respectively. I am in to my more experimental plants with Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed, which I have never used. I also want to transplant Joe Pyeweed from Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org). I have only ever been able to get three plants starting them from seed.
All these plants are natives. My work is in native plants, restoring the landscape. The land like people has also been colonized by European and Asian invasives, some very problematic, like Ailanthus, Japanese Knotweed and Mugwort, to name a few, all from Asia. We love Mugwort, as well as Comfrey and Motherwort from Europe. I have had a Rhubarb-like dessert made out of Japanese Knotweed. Tasty! Sweet/tart. My two Comfrey beds came from a site that is feverishly trying to eradicate it. They’ve just started to mow it regularly, but Comfrey just keeps coming back. I was able to “rescue” around forty plants. The same space eradicated Motherwort, the biggest stand I have ever seen back in 2007. I have gotten Motherwort from seed once back at Stone Barns (www.stonebarnscenter.org), but have just transplanted ever since. I created a five foot bed at SDG with volunteer plants a few years ago and have enough to extend the bed this season. I just found a ton of volunteer plants at A Farm for All! and Hiddenbrooke. The patch at Hiddenbrooke may get driven over so I better get to them.
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial. Turtle Island
Anise Hyssop is native cough medicine and was transplanted to Europe for beekeepers to make honey. The leaf smells like licorice and can also be used for seasoning, tea and potpourri.
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Skullcap is a native painkiller. I have used her recently for formication, incessant itching due to menopaue causing a hot challenged liver. Works well. Skullcap eases the nerves and can be used as a tonic. The aerial parts are soothing and can relieve tension in the muscles and have been used for epilepsy and rabies. The tea can be used for anxiety, depression, nervous exhaustion, PMS and rheumatism.
Elecampane, Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia
Elecampane is one of those European plants that we love in the herbal world. There are allies to be found everywhere. Someone gave me a root years ago back at Stone Barns and all I knew was to put it up in alcohol. That Winter I had the worst cough I have ever had. I believe it was withdrawal from New York City. I did not know what it was good for that Winter, but when the cough started to return the following Winter, I pored through all my herbal books to find a remedy. There she was on the page and already tinctured in my cupboard. My cough left in a whisper in about a week, never to return again. Can we say pandemic medicine?
I will be returning to Sally Garden of Eden May 6 and starting Michelle Cottage Garden, May 16. We carry on. Thankfully, the pandemic happened at the start of the growing season. We can get outside and connect with the natural world as she breathes a sigh of relief. Hopefully we learn from this experience and engage in a more harmonious way when the pandemic is over. We are the one’s Mother has been waiting for. Pollution clears, birds fly lower, Deer ran alongside Twuck the other day. I came over a hill and there was a flock of Turkey Vultures eating a carcass. Enjoy this opportunity to engage the natural world in a new way. In THE way. Harmonious.