Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Joanna Posted by Hello

Isn't she fabulous?

This is my best friend Joanna. You can tell she is fabulous just by looking at her. Isn't she cool? She's going through a real rough time right now and she's very stressed out. Anyone who reads this, please take a moment to think about her and send her your good thoughts. Thanks.

Slippery Elm Posted by Hello

Slippery Elm

There is often a big disconnect between the feelings in my soul and what I actually do in real life - along the lines of T.S. Eliot in this poem: The Hollow Men

I hope I do not come off as some kind of pompous new age pseudo-guru, or faux-shaman in this blog. I have lots of little mystical anecdotes about nature and I plan to write them here. However, lest you think that I think I'm any better than you, I will also tell you all the stupid shit I do as well. I hope this serves as a counter-balance.

One of the stupidest things I've done in my relationship with nature is to carelessly kill a slippery elm tree.

My relationship with the slippery elm tree goes way back to when I first met my husband, Dave. He suffered for many years with an illness that Western medicine doesn't seem to understand or know how to treat: ulcerative colitis. He was painfully thin when I met him. His ribs jutted out and his skinny little toothpick legs were almost comical. He had a lot of pain, had to spend lots of time in the bathroom, missed days from work, had to fast one day a week, was tired and stressed, could only eat certain foods, etc. It interfered with his life quite a bit.

Being the bossy and intrusive character I am I told him we had to find a way to fix his problem. He became annoyed and patiently explained that he had been to many doctors, they had done many tests, they had given him sulfa drugs (which didn't help) and that was all that could be done. He just had to live with it and accept it. Of course, I didn't accept it.

I went to the health food co-op and looked up colitis and found that slippery elm powder can be used to treat it. I bought some and brought it home. I explained that he should stop taking his medication, make a paste out of a tablespoon of the slippery elm powder and hot water and swallow it first thing in the morning each day. He was skeptical and argued, but I persisted and he did it. In a few weeks he was feeling much better. In a few months he was almost totally better. We've been together for 15 years and in that time he has had a few flare ups of the colitis, but he takes the slippery elm powder and is better again in a few days. Other than that, he is basically symptom free, and healthy.

This was really my first foray into herbal medicine, and it worked so well, I guess it encouraged me to find out more about it.

Fast forward to about 6 years ago when we bought our house on the creek. I had some grand landscaping plans, and being the bossy and intrusive character I am, I wanted to impose them on our little 1/2 acre landscape. One part of that landscape was a tree.

I didn't know what kind of tree it was at that time. I'm sure you can guess -- yes, I know now it was an elm, and very likely a slippery elm. And if you consider Dutch Elm Disease, it makes this story I'm about to tell even worse.

I wasn't as in tune with nature then, having lived in a city for many years. I just saw the tree as part of the landscape. I wanted to plant a flowerbed underneath it.

I had lots of work to do to make the yard into what I imagined it should be. I dug and planted and weeded and mutched. It was the end of a long afternoon of physical labor, I was sweaty and hot and dirty and tired and a little crabby. I decided to transplant some foxgloves to the area under the tree. The tree roots made it hard to dig. I noticed that there wasn't much topsoil there. My vision of a nice flowerbed was being thwarted. As I dug, some of the tree's smaller roots were cut by my spade. Also, I left some of them exposed in my desire to finish my task, go in the house and take a shower.

That night, I woke up suddenly. Everyone else was asleep. I feel a number of small entities around my bed, many of them very angry. I would describe them as fairies, or elves, but that sounds really corny. It wasn't like a Disney movie at all. I didn't see or hear them, I felt them. I felt kind of scared of them actually, their anger was very real. I also felt that there were some entities who were arguing on my behalf - mini defense lawyers in a trial of sorts. I was kind of in a dream like state... you know how sometimes you wake up from a dream and for a few minutes, you think it's real? It was like that. But it went on for a little while.

I felt as though I should get up and go outside to the yard with my flashlight and try to make peace with that tree somehow. I should apologize to it. Maybe make an offering of some kind.

But then the rational part of me was fully awake. I told myself that was silly, it was just a dream, and I had to work the next day, and it was crazy to apologize to a tree in order to mollify imaginary elves in an imaginary trial. I went back to sleep.

This is how stupid I was back then: I persisted in wanting my own way, so I paid some landscapers to dig around the roots of that tree with a rototiller and put a whole lot of compost around it. The landscapers asked me if I cared about the tree at all and I said "Not really. In fact, without it, there would be more sun there for growing flowers."

And of course, the tree died. And of course, I suffered a very bad year in which everything seemed to go wrong. And of course, nothing I tried to grow there grew very well at all.

But the tree provided food for insects as it decayed. I observed some woodpeckers hanging around more often. Also some interesting fungus grew up at the trunk of the dead tree. Also some wild strawberry plants. And after a while, I think I was forgiven. It was still a shitty thing to do though.

I'm still bossy and careless and selfish and wasteful and lazy at times. But I have learned one lesson. Things that are alive have rights too, and they can make their point of view felt, and known. They aren't just objects to be treated any way we like. I wish I could remember this in everyday life more often.

I have other things to say on the subject, but for right now, I will just provide some links that I want to think about more deeply. Maybe you will too.

Ecological footprint

Radical Simplicity

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Be Nice to Nettles!

Did you know that in the UK this is national be nice to nettles week?

I didn't, when I wrote my post about nettles below, but I do now!

We are Friends of the Bluejay People.

Dave and I say this, sometimes, half jokingly.

Bluejays are funny, clever, bossy and gregarious. Plus they are gorgeous. We both like them. So we give them peanuts. Peanuts are their favorite snack.

Dave used to work as a social worker, and on his lunch hour he would go to the park and eat his sandwich. He also brought along some peanuts to feed the squirrels. But the bluejays would steal them from the squirrels. At first, he thought they were just doing it to be greedy, he didn't think they could actually eat something that big. But we looked it up, and sure enough, they do indeed eat peanuts and they love them. So ever since we have put peanuts out for the bluejays wherever we have lived. And consequently, we have had noisy gangs of bluejays hanging around at each of our old apts, and now in our house.

I said they are noisy, and they are. They make a variety of noises and we know them all. The funniest one is they have figured out where our bedroom is, and they JUMP on the roof of our bedroom repeatedly until we wake up and feed them. I'm not kidding! Then they look in our bedroom windows and squawk at us.

We also have a lot of wasps that live around our house, and these I consider pests. I know they probably have a good reason for being there, I should leave them alone. But I don't. I want them to go away. Sometimes I spray them with poison too. Even though I shouldn't. But, well, who's perfect? Anyway: the wasps and I are having a sort of war over the house.

Every year we get a wasp's nest in our bedroom skylight window. And it's in a spot that's very hard to get at with poisonous spray. And we can't knock it down either. Unless we get a big ladder and climb on the roof and risk being stung by many wasps while on a ladder. Which neither of us wants to do.

So my method of dealing with this is to complain to Dave and hope he will fix it. Being the woman means I get to do this right? Well, he isn't buying it. He knows I'm just as capable of dealing with it as he is. But I persist in trying to get him to do it.

One morning I was looking at the skylight and saying to Dave in the other room:

"Honey, can't you get rid of this wasp's nest?"

Dave: "No, I can't. We've been through this before".

Me: "But they are coming in the bedroom, I don't like it. There must be a way to get rid of them!"

Dave: "I don't want to get up on a ladder and spray them anymore than you do. Why don't you do it?"

Me (laughing): "Come on! I'm the*girl*, aren't you supposed to do it?"

Dave: (laughing) "Don't tell me about it, why don't you ask the bluejays?"

(during this conversation the bluejays were squawking and jumping on the roof)

Me: "OK, maybe I will!" (jokingly) "Bluejays! Please help us get rid of this wasp's nest!"

Then I got dressed and went to work. I forgot all about it.

That night, as I was getting undressed for bed, I looked up at the skylight. The nest was gone. Totally gone, not a trace of it was left.

Me: "Oh you did get rid of the nest after all! Cool! How did you do it? Did you borrow Audrey's Ladder?"

Dave: "I didn't."

Me: "What do you mean you didn't, it's gone! Did you call an exterminator?"

Dave: "No, I didn't do it. I don't know what happened."

Me: "Come on, it's totally gone! You must have done it!"

Dave: "Maybe the bluejays did it."

Me: "Really? That's crazy. Weird."

Later on Dave said he found the empty nest down by the creek with peanut shells around it. Bluejay party? I looked it up, and apparently, they eat wasp larvae too.


UPDATE: I'd like to add here a link to a little story about bluejays by Mark Twain:

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bluejay taking a peanut Posted by Hello

Drying nettles in the shed Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Valerian Update and Nettles and Dock

I went to my friend Liz's house today to cut some stinging nettles she has growing on her property. She's always complaining about them, but to me they are just a delicious tea. (Then again, I don't have them on my property, and I wasn't eager to dig them up to plant some here either. They do pack a wallop. )

They are very nutritious and have so many vitamins and minerals. I look forward to having them in the winter when I lack those things. Nettle seems so deeply nourishing.

Anyway, I got there early in the AM and talked to them, left some little pinches of tobacco and cut a bunch. There was much more than I thought there would be. Plenty left for later.

Liz's sons came out and wanted to help, they are 5 and 7. They told me in detail how much the nettles hurt when they sting and how important it is to wear gloves, and how they had discovered that if they put some fern on the sting it seemed to make it go away. They had their little garden gloves on and their clippers and we made 2 piles, one for me and one for Liz.

Liz came outside and pointed out the dock that was plaguing her garden. I said that I had heard the dock takes away the sting of nettles. "Nettle in, dock out". I also told her that dock is good for anemia, as it helps the body absorb iron. She encouraged me to dig some up, which I did. Those roots are deep! I need to read up on dock. She wants to get rid of it and I'm sure I can find a good use for it.

Then she invited me in and offered me some cinnamon rolls she had just baked from scratch, and let me tell you, they were fabulous. The recipe was from an old cookbook from the 1950's with cool old corny illustrations. I wrote down the title so I could try to find it on

As we ate, I mentioned to her that since her husband has fibromyalgia, the nettles stings might actually help him with his pain. And I told her I had noticed wintergreen growing on a different part of the property last fall when I was deer hunting. I said maybe she might want to try a liniment from it, since she has pain in her neck from a car accident years ago.

Sometimes the land offers us plants we need, but we just see them as a nuisance. Hmmm, maybe I should think about that in relation to my valerian seedlings (see post below).

Anyway, after that I went to the farmer's market and gave the herb guy my valerian seedlings and he gave me some hidcote lavender in exchange. I felt it wasn't a fair trade, since valerian is prolific and lavender is more marketable and also less hardy and harder to propagate. I paid for half the lavender after arguing with him about it. He laughed at my reverse hagling.

Then I ran into another friend of mine, Ruth Ann, who is the person who started me on this herby journey anyway... by suggesting I read Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Green cherries

The dwarf "Stella" cherry tree is producing fruit! I'm so excited. We planted it about 4 or 5 years ago, and I know it does take a while for them to produce.

It had lots of blossoms this spring, but they appeared during a rainy gray cold spell, so I worried there wouldn't be many bees about to pollinate them, but my worrying was for nothing. There they are: green cherries. Yay! In July they will be red. I can't wait.

In the Bible, or maybe it's in old Jewish law, they say that you should pick off the unripe fruit from a young fruit tree for... I think it's 5 years.... or is it 7 years? before you allow it to bear fruit. I suppose it makes the tree stronger. I don't have the patience for that. Our peach tree produced bushels of peaches the first year, who could resist? They were so yummy too. - Sorry God!

But do cherry trees count? Because they make you wait naturally.

Should I state the obvious?

You could say they're virginal.

Green Cherries Posted by Hello

Tadpoles attract frog?

Danny is lacking in the grandparent dept, so he asked a friend of our family, Betsy, to be his grandmother. She agreed, and now she sends him letters and presents from Vt. and we visit and send her letters and presents. She has Danny's picture on her refridgerator and we have her picture in his bedroom. It's nice. She's a really cool person. I actually wish she would be my mom too, but that would be too weird to ask.

Anyway, she sent him a present for Christmas called "Frog Planet" which is a habitat for tadpoles to turn into frogs. The day before yesterday, 2 tadpoles arrived in the mail and we placed them into the "Frog Planet".

That very afternoon, a frog visitor came to see us. He hopped into our garden and Danny noticed him. He ran and told Dave, who took this picture. Dave said that the frog just seemed to sit there, waiting for his picture to be taken, and when it was done, he calmly hopped away. So here he is. :-)

Froggie visitor Posted by Hello


When I woke up this morning, I had a little conversation with the valerian plant in my yard.

I told him that I planned to dig up the volunteer valerian seedlings that had sprung up in the vegetable garden and give them to the guy I bought the original plant from at the farmer's market last year.

The original plant was not happy about this and proceeded to argue that his plan was to populate what I called "the vegetable garden" with a healthy strong vibrant colony of valerian plants. I argued that the vegetable garden was my space and I would not allow that. He became angry, saying that there was good soil there and it was a good place for a colony of his offspring. I said there was a reason the soil was good, I worked at it, and I used that space to grow food for my offspring. The valerian sulked.

This evening I dug up the seedlings, some are quite large and vibrant indeed, and put them in pots, and watered them.

I tried to pacify the original plant with a gift of a pinch of tobacco. Then I sat with the plant and smoked a cigarette, and assured it I would make sure the seedlings had good homes. I weeded around it and gave it some water from the creek. I hope that makes peace with it.

Valerian and little valerians Posted by Hello

Finding My Voice Here...

I was thinking about the pressure I feel sometimes to be witty, not only in this blog, but in real life too. I don't think my blog will be very witty. I hope that doesn't mean no one will read it! I really do enjoy the sometimes-snarky-sometimes-self-depreciating humor in many blogs, but I think that tone is not for me.

I think my blog will be more peaceful, focused mainly on nature in my backyard and random little observations that may be boring to the world... but that's really who I am.

It seems there is a lot of pressure to be entertaining all the time, in real life, as in blogs. Like we are all TV shows, wishing we had a laugh track to follow all of our little jokes. I may have a witty remark here and there, but not all the time.

William Blake said so many things that mean a lot to me, and this is one:

Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I had a dream a few weeks ago about how my yard was asking me to plant some goldenseal plants in it.

I could see the plant's leaves very clearly and they were fascinating to me. But when I woke up, I thought to myself: "I don't think they really look like that." So I did a google search and looked them up in my plant books and sure enough, they DO, in fact, look like that. So I took that as a sign that I should plant some.

I'm into herbal medicine and there are a few plants that I feel I have a good relationship with that help me out when I'm sick. But I've never really used goldenseal, or thought about it much.

I do know that goldenseal is threatened because people keep digging it up and using it to fight off colds and such, and I also know that it does grow wild around here. But I don't want to be one of those people who digs it up... so I plan to buy some seeds from this place and try to grow them in my yard. I will consult this book too.

Perhaps conditions there will be favorable and they will grow and I can help them. And who knows, there may be a day when they can help me too.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I love Bill Moyers.

I heard Bill Moyers say this on the radio this morning during my car ride to work, and I actually shouted "Woo Hoo!" so here you go, hope it makes you feel good too...

"...but I should put my detractors on notice, they might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair."

Here's a link to a transcript of his speech about how the media has been hijacked by the right and how we have to take it back.

Garden Pictures

Wanna see my garden? Sure, you know you do....

peas! Posted by Hello

closeup of lettuce Posted by Hello

lettuce Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Laughing Dog Posted by Hello

the creek Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Happy To Be Alive.

This is one of those rare days when I feel happy and grateful to be alive, for no apparent reason.

I have a cold, but it doesn't seem to be influencing my good mood at all. All day I've felt energetic and happy.

Dave brought me herbal tea in bed, and I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for awhile. Then I went downstairs and ate breakfast and read the paper and had some coffee. I gave Danny a bath and we all went to the Farmer's Market, including Miss Doggie.

I was proud to show her off, she's such a beauty. People always ask me "What breed is she?" because I know they want one just like her for themselves. But she's just a mutt. Who knows her breed? I like to guess... maybe part black lab, part chow and part border collie... but really, who knows? I don't really know how old she is either, she was a stray. The vet thought she was a year old when we got her, but she must be older, because we've had her for 2 years and she has a tiny bit of gray around the muzzle.

One of the joys of having a dog is the vicarious happiness you get by making your dog happy, which is so easy to do. A ride in the car, being petted by some new people, a few other dog's butts to sniff, and she's in heaven. And that really makes me feel good.

Then we came home and Dave planted some more pansies around the patio. I took Danny to visit a friend and I went to get some new contact lenses.

Later on we went out for dinner and I drank a yummy salted margarita and ate some perfect fried calamari. We sat on the deck, facing the lake. The weather was just right. Danny wasn't too figity and there were many many babies and children eating on the deck too. I feel hopeful and happy that my community is so full of happy, healthy looking kids.

Then we came home and watered the garden, and Dave and I walked around and discussed what we want to do in the yard this summer. I want to move that climbing Blaze rose to the front of the house. We are glad we dug up that bush we never liked. The blueberries seem to be doing well in the back bed.

As we filled up our watering cans at the creek, I looked and saw the beauty that I sometimes forget. How lucky we are to live here, in this spot on the creek. I hope we stay here a long long time.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Cat Kills Bat.

My semi-feral insane cat killed a bat last night. Well, she didn't actually kill it, but it was all bloody and I'm sure it died shortly after we got it away from her. I tried to stop her, but she is too savage and quick.

I like bats, and they eat a lot of mosquitoes. My husband is particularly fond of them. He was really sad. He took the bat in a coffee can and dumped it out on a stone wall in our back yard.

This morning, my son wanted to see it. So, we went outside in our pajamas and sneakers. He was cold, so I let him share my bathrobe, wrapping it around both of us as we walked along through the dewy grass.

When we got to the stone wall, the bat was gone. I said "Maybe another animal ate it. Or maybe it crawled into one of the crevices in the wall... because that's what I would do, if I were a dying bat."

My son said "Or maybe he waited here until the other bats came to rescue him, and to accompany him to the bat hospital where the bat nurse put him into a bat bed".

I love that kid. :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Eye Protection While Welding a Necessity

My brother in law is not my favorite person. He is, in fact, my least favorite person. So I find a lot of amusement in his mishaps. And he has a lot of mishaps.

The latest one? He is apparently trying to build his own racecar, and he thought the eye protection he used while welding it was optional.

(Last year he tried to build a racecar and it fell apart while he was driving it in a race on a small racetrack in Malta, NY. But that's another story).

Last night, while welding, he removed his eye protection, because he felt he could see better without it. This morning he woke up and couldn't open his eyes. They were swollen shut. He's in the emergency room right now.

I googled this and it seems the condition is temporary, not permanent, blindness. It's called "welder's flash", and it is caused by exposure to bright infared light. It goes away after a few days.

Who removes their eye protection while welding?

And the worst part is, I feel kind of bad for him. And I don't *want* to feel any sympathy for this guy at all, because he's a total jackass. But I can't help it.

And that pisses me off.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I had a delicious breakfast.

This cheese, these pickles, some crackers and a cup of coffee.

Damn, it was good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I hate gardening gloves.

The battle between my garden and my summer nails has begun. In this corner, wearing OPI Cony Island Cotton Candy, is the manicure. And in this corner, wearing dirt and earthworms is the flat of pansies that need to be planted by the patio! Let's get ready to RUMBLE.... :-)

Damn that Bossy Gertrude Stein!

Last night I dreamed that I worked for Gertrude Stein. My job? To play
a videogame in which I fought a Godzilla-type creature, but it kept
obliterating me with it's flame-breath. Gertrude Stein was going on
vacation and told me in no uncertain terms that I must defeat Godzilla
by the time she returned. I played and played, but I couldn't beat
Godzilla. Finally, my friend Noah came along and told me nobody can
beat Godzilla in that game, it's impossible. And I said "But Gertrude
Stein told me I have to beat it before she gets back!". He said, "Just
forget it." Then he gave me a ride home on a firetruck.

I swear to Godzilla, I'm not making any of this up! :-)