Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tincture-Making Workshop - October 2, 2011


Tincture-Making Workshop
Sunday, October 2, 2011, 1-5:00 p.m.
Wapsinonoc Farm, West Branch, IA

At this workshop you will:
  • Learn about the healing properties of a variety of medicinal plants growing in Wapsinonoc Gardens
  • Choose one or more plants that you would like to tincture
  • Tour the medicinal gardens
  • Harvest your chosen plants, clean, prepare, and fill tincture jars to take home
Provided:
  • Handouts of medicinal plant descriptions and uses, & instructions on tincturing
  • Lots of individual attention as you choose your plants and make your tinctures
  • Medicinal plants
  • Large and small jars for tincturing
  • One small dosage dropper bottle
  • 100 proof vodka
  • Snack
Cost: $50 per person. Please register early as workshop is limited to ten people.
Contact info: Nan Fawcett, 2039 Eureka Avenue, West Branch, IA 52358 nanjfawcett@gmail.com or 319-643-3342. To see the medicinal herbs growing at Wapsinonoc Gardens, go to WapsinonocGardens.blogspot.com.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Waves of Chammomile!

Waves of Chammommile  surround a patch of artemesia. Spring in the gardens. And right now the gardens need weeding! Justine, above, helps at the market and sometimes now in the gardens. I am a host for WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and will be having various individuals from all over the country and the world coming through later in the summer. For now, I'm glad to have what help I can find from local folks. Some want to learn more about gardening, or about herbs, or about plant medicine. Some want to trade services (like weeding!) for products like produce or plants or a workshop fee or some bodywork.  
I like to trade. It feels good to me. So if you are interested in doing some weeding or helping at the Saturday market in return for something I have to give, let me know. In the meantime, I'm spending every available minute in the quiet, contemplative, satisfying act of weeding.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tincture-Making Workshop - June 12th

Wapsinonoc Gardens is hosting another tincture workshop, Sunday afternoon, June 12th from 1:00-5:00.

At this workshop you will:
  • Learn about the healing properties of a variety of medicinal plants growing here at the farm
  • Choose one or more plants that you would like to tincture
  • Tour the medicinal gardens
  • Harvest your chosen plants, clean, prepare, and fill tincture jars to take home
Provided:
  • Handouts of medicinal plant descriptions and uses, and instructions on tincturing
  • Lots of individual attention as you choose your plants and make your tinctures
  • Medicinal plants
  • Large and small jars for tincturing
  • Small dosage dropper bottle
  • 100 proof vodka
  • Snack
Cost: $50 per person. Please register early as workshop is limited to ten participants.

Contact info: Nan Fawcett, 2039 Eureka Avenue, West Branch, IA 52358, or nanjfawcett@gmail.com, or 319-643-3342

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Big Tomato Sale at Iowa City Farmers Market - Saturday!

All Wapsinonoc Gardens tomatoes will be half-price on Saturday, May 29th, at the Iowa City Farmers Market. Here are the varieties available. They are all heirlooms:

Pink Brandywine
Garden Peach
Wapsipinicon Peach
German Pink
Oxheart Giantissimo
Early Bird
Peacevine
Amish Paste
Cherokee Purple
Legend
Principe Borghese

Sale Prices: 4" pots - $1.00
4-packs - $1.50

Come and get some!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raising the Tipi

We had set the time to put up our tipi at 4:30 this Sunday afternoon, but a thunderstorm came along first. Instead, we had an early dinner at the family cabin, watching the wind and rain pelting down. And then, as can happen so often in Iowa, the storm blew past, the sky cleared, and we had great weather for tipi-raising just an hour after the storm started. Here are a few pictures of the process. As we commented while we were at it, the Native Americans would laugh at us reading the instruction book. But in the end, the tipi graced the landscape, pointing toward the sky.

Friday, May 13, 2011

YOU can make your own medicines!

For thousands of years, people kept themselves healthy with herbal medicines, and today these simple remedies are perhaps as important as they ever have been. In general, using herbs for healing is a gentler way to treat disease than drugs. And now that many people are having reactions and unpleasant side effects to drugs, lots of folks are turning to a more natural alternative. As someone who has been fascinated with healing plants most of my life, I have found that growing and using all kinds of plants for healing is an adventure and a pleasure!

Many medicinal plants are already up outside. Above, you see a dandelion. Rosemary Gladstar (perhaps the best known herbalist in this country) calls the dandelion one of the great tonic herbs of all time. It is rejuvenating, it's great for the digestion, a wonderful herb to promote healthy liver and kidneys, it's extremely high in vitamins and minerals, and it grows everywhere. You can eat the leaves in salads or stir-fry, and the root can be tinctured for a stronger, long-lasting remedy.

The herb pictured above is another plant that grows wild in Iowa. It's called Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), and it's one of my favorites because of its effect on the cardiovascular system. Most of the women in my mother's family have a heart issue: sometimes between one heartbeat and the next, the heart will start beating at two or three times the normal rate, and this can go on for quite awhile. You can do nothing but lie down and wait it out when this happens. But then I discovered motherwort. I make a tincture with it and carry it with me wherever I go. And when my heart starts pounding (which only happens a couple times a year), a few drops of motherwort tincture under the tongue returns my heart to its regular rhythm within seconds. It's truly amazing! The herb is a popular one for women, good for the side effects of menopause, strengthening the heart, and some folks use it for a calming remedy. Like dandelions, it grows everywhere!
Here's another plant that grows everywhere. The Native Americans reputedly called it "White Man's Footsteps" because it grew wherever white men walked. It's call plantain (not the banana), and you'll find it especially in well-trod lawns and paths. It loves compacted soil. This lowly plant has leaves that are a miracle healer for skin ailments, from stings to cuts, rashes to dry skin. And the seeds that come later in the summer in a spike up through the middle of the leaves is actually psyllium seed (the stuff that promotes "regularity"). You'll see (above) a dandelion in the foreground, and the plantain leaves just behind it. Look for it the next time you go walking. And if you get stung, just pick a leaf, chew it up a bit, and plaster it on the sting.
This last picture is of Lady's Mantle, with some Catmint growing around the side. These are growing just outside my door, and they serve as decorative low ground covers as well as a medicinal plants. As with so many plants, both these herbs have a variety of uses, and I am learning more every day. One woman came to me at the farmers market, hoping to get lady's mantle because it was the only thing that cured her skin condition. It was the first time I'd heard of that use!

If this has whetted your interest in medicinal herbs, let me announce that I am giving a Tincture Workshop at Wapsinonoc Gardens in June. It will be Sunday, June 12th, from 1:00-5:00 p.m.  We'll spend some time at the beginning talking about tinctures and about the plants growing outside in the gardens and what they are good for. Then we'll go out and harvest the ones you choose, clean them, cut or grind them up, and prepare bottles of tinctured herb that you'll take home with you. Tinctures last for years, and are a great addition to your personal first aid basket. The workshop is $50, which includes the plants, vodka for the tinctures, large bottles, small tincture bottles, and a snack. Register early since space is limited. If interested, call 319-643-3342, send an email to nanjfawcett@gmail.com, or reply to this blog post.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Medicinal Herbs at Wapsinonoc Gardens - 2011


Andrographis (Annual): fights common cold, flue, and upper respiratory infections.
Angelica (Perennial): treats cold and flu, warms the body, and aids in digestion
Anise Hyssop (Perennial): relieves congestion and indigestion, soothes and relaxes
Apricot Sprite Agastache (Perennial): wonderful aroma; use in tea and other beverages
Arnica montana (Annual): topical anti-inflammatory, used in homeopathy
Ashwaganda (Perennial): treats joint and nerve pain, insomnia, infertility
Astragalus (Perennial): strengthens digestion and immune system, raises metabolism
Balloon Flower (Perennial): cough remedy, young foliage can be added to salads
Basil (Annual): anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-microbial properties
Bergamot (Perennial): stimulant in tea, antiseptic, poultices for wounds, mouthwash
Betony (Perennial): relieves headaches, soothes aching joints (topical), general tonic action
Blessed Thistle (Annual): Eases lactation in nursing mothers, good for digestion, anti-cancer
Blue Flax (Perennial): relieves rheumatic pains, diarrhea and coughs
Boneset (Perennial): enhances immune system, helps with fevers and flu
Borage (Annual): Herb of Gladness, exilerating, lowers fever and decongests the lungs
Calendula (Annual): potent healing properties, anti-inflammatory, externally treats burns and bruises
Catnip (Perennial): treatment of colds, flu and fevers, upset stomach and insomnia, gently relaxing
Celandine (Perennial): treats warts and corns, stomach pains, anti-cancer properties
Chamomile (Perennial): provides relief from anxiety, headache, cold and flu, and digestive complaints
Chinese Wolfberry/Goji berry (Perennial): anti-oxidant, immune booster, vision & cardiac disorders
Clary Sage (Perennial): relaxant for nervous disorders; relieves sore throat, gas and indigestion
Comfrey (Perennial): promotes healing of bones; currently it is suggested to avoid internal use
Echinacea (Perennial): strengthens and stimulates digestion and the immune system
Elecampane (Perennial): quiets coughs, stimulates digestion, tones the stomach
Fennel (Perennial): relieves congestion and abdominal pain caused by gas and indigestion
Fenugreek (Annual):Increases milk production in lactating women, anti-viral, relieves arthritis pain
Feverfew (Perennial): treats colds and digestive problems and it great for headaches, esp. migraines
Foxglove, purple (Biennial): source of digitalis; do not use without medical supervision
Gayfeather (Perennial): used for kidney diseases and to relieve sore throat
Horehound (Perennial): provides relief from cough, and aids in treatment of chronic lung problems
Hyssop (Perennial): relieves sore throat, congestion, colds & flu, and aids in treating chronic bronchitis
Jacob's Ladder (Perennial): relieves nervous complaints, headaches and heart palpitations
Lady's Mantle (Perennial): good for menstrual disorders, lack of appetite, rheumatism, stomachache
Lavender (Perennial): antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, soothes insect bites, soothes headaches
Lemonbalm (Perennial): stimulates heart and calms nerves
Lion's Tail (Perennial): small shrub, treats fevers, headaches, flu, hypertension; anti-inflammatory
Lovage (Perennial): woman's tonic, increases energy, relieves indigestion, colds and flu
Maralroot (Perennial): Siberian plant with remarkable metabolic and tonic effects
Marjoram (Annual): oil used for sprains and bruises, emmenagogue
Marshmallow (Perennial): relieves coughs and is used to aid treatment of diabetes and tuberculosis
Meadow Clary (Perennial): wonderfully aromatic, calms and relaxes
Milk Thistle (Biennial): remedy for liver diseases
Motherwort (Perennial): good for PMS, menstrual pain and delay in menstruation, strengthens heart
Mugwort (Perennial): eases feelings of unease and general malaise; used in moxibustion
Ox-Eye Daisy (Perennial): relieves chronic cough, asthma and nervous excitabilitiy
Pennyroyal (Perennial): used in aromatherapy, good insect repellant
Pleurisy Root (Perennial): treats cold, flu, fever and congestion
Pyrethrum (Perennial): insecticidal properties, good companion plant to repel insects
Rue (Perennial): lowers blood pressure and relieves aches and pains. Do not take in large doses
Sage, Garden (Perennial): gargle tea to relieve sore throat, woman's tonic herb
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum (Annual): rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants
Skullcap (Perennial): calms and relaxes, induces sleep, and relieves headaches
Soapwort (Perennial): crushed leaves or roots used as a soap, cleaning delicate fabrics, shampoo
St. John's Wort (Perennial): relieves depression, especially in children and teens
Sunset Flower/Mexican Butterfly Weed (Perennial): clots wounds, wart removal, treats poison ivy
Sweet Annie (Annual): anti-malarial, anti-cancer, anti-parasite; traditionally used for fevers; strewing
Sweet Marigold (Tagetes lucida) (Annual): similar to tarragon; makes a stimulating tea, strewing herb
Sweet Woodruff (Perennial): gentle sedative, flavors wines and spirits, popular potpourri scent
Tansy (Perennial): promotes menstruation and is applied externally to injuries and bruises
Thyme (Perennial): soothes cough and sore throat, aids in treatment of asthma and digestive problems
Toothache Plant (Annual): numbs toothaches, treats dry mouth, smooths facial wrinkles, anti-diabetic
Valerian (Perennial): acts as a calming sedative and relieves pain and cramps
Vervain (Perennial): use for fevers, ulcers, pleurisy; anti-sposmatic, astringent
Wallflower (Perennial): fragrant golden flowers good in potpourris
Winter Savory (Perennial): topical treatment for joint pain
Wormwood (Perennial): treats arthritis, relieves itching from rashes, and regulates liver
Yarrow (Perennial): improves digestion, circulation, and functions of the liver, gall bladder & kidneys


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plants available at the Backyard Abundance Plant Sale, Saturday April 30th

Here's a list of the plants I plan to bring to the Backyard Abundance sale at the rec center in Iowa City on Saturday, 10-12:00. Prices depend upon size of plants and sometimes scarcity of seed.
 
Medicinals (in no particular order)
Anise Hyssop
Lion's Tail
Fenugreek
Mugwort
Catnip
Milk Thistle
Blessed Thistle
Motherwort
Maralroot
Bergamot
Roman Chamomile
German Chamomile
Wallflower
Toothache Plant
Astragulus
Clary Sage
Sweet Annie
Ashwaganda
Pennyroyal
Borage
Angelica
Echinacea Purpurea
Valerian
European Arnica
Stevia
Chinese Wolfberry
Red Yarrow
Comfrey
 
Culinary Herbs
French Sorrel
Sweet Marjoram
Sweet Basil
Christmas Basil
Lemon Basil
Thai Basil
Chives
Lavender
Rosemary
Oregano
Thyme
Peppermint
Edible Chrysanthemum (Shungiku)
Cilantro
Dill
Chervil
Parsley
Garden Sage
Lemon Gem Marigold
 
Veggies
Swiss Chard
Collards
Kale
Arugula
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Celery
 
Heirloom Tomatoes
Peacevine
Cherokee Purple
German Pink
Garden Peach
Pink Brandywine
Wapsipinicon Peach
Hillbilly Potato Leaf
Long Tom
Amish Paste
 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Season in the Life of a Worm

I wish I had a picture to include here, but I think it is too early for many worms to be found outdoors. I wrote this the other day, having fun getting into the worldview of a little creature. I would heartily recommend the practice! It is great for giving perspective during the midst of our ever-busy lives. Here is the story:

Epic Journey of a Lowly Worm

The shiny round egg case split down the center and a small white worm wiggled out onto the underside of a boxelder leaf. There was a faint warm breeze that lifted the leaf heavenward, and as if propelled by gravity, the worm crawled earthward, toward the base of the plant, and then slowly made its way toward the ground. This was a journey with frequent stops to nibble on the supporting foliage. Or rather, it was a continuous meal, leaving a pale eaten-away path aiming down, the destination less important than the nourishing process.

The worm was gradually taking on the color of his green dinner, or was it breakfast? This may be the beginning of one never-ending meal. It was becoming evident to this brand new lifeform that its sole purpose appeared to be nothing but eating, a continual green bash from leaf to leaf. The worm was also aware of other things: the filtered sun warming its skin, the breeze, the patches of brightness and of shadow. As the afternoon advanced toward evening, the little creature became filled with purpose, an inclination toward growth, an instinctive passion to some high calling.

And so the days went by, from leaf to leaf, often in sun, but sometimes in rain with the worm gripping snugly to the underside of his current foodstuff so as not to slide to the ground. The worm could feel an outward thrust in its body and it had a sense that something different was perhaps just around the corner. Weeks went by, and the worm was many times its original size, a mighty warrior among others of its kind, eating its way to fulfillment.

And then one day it stopped. The worm happened to be on a tender petal at the center of a geranium flower. This halt in the endless quest for food was not planned. It happened as if a sudden culmination to  an epic journey was reached, and it was time to wait for instructions. Then slowly this large caterpillar inched over the edge of the flowerhead towards a strong dark green leaf a few inches away, affixed itself in place, and began to transform. This took complete surrender. It took the ability to be still and wait for new and mysterious internal processes to take hold. It took the ability to let go of all the personal wishes an adult worm might have developed: finding a tasty leaf, a place in the sunlight or shade, a dewdrop caught in the crease of a grass blade. But the caterpillar was capable of yielding to this higher authority, and as it rested on the leaf in the lee of the wind, its body began to change. Gradually all hunger ceased and the whole world seemed suspended. A thick, hard casing began to form in place of skin, and the body inside began its transit from one state of being to another.

Days went by. Weeks. The casing turned brown, then black. It sometimes waved in the wind, sometimes caught raindrops as they blew under the host plant. Yet the casing holding the former worm did not show any movement, any life. It was still. If there had been watchers, waiting for something to happen, they would have long since given up by the time transformation, the final act, was at hand.

It happened one morning, the sun already above the crest of the hill and warming the air. There was little fanfare at first, only an occasional jerk in the chrysalis generated from inside. And inside the crisp walls, the former worm was waking, stretching, beginning to be aware of new life flooding through it. It felt an urgent need to reach out. Just the act of reaching was an astonishing move, an entirely new concept. The casing began to give way and gradually a crumpled, bedazzled newborn something emerged. The breeze fanned its head, the sun warmed its back, and wings slowly, painstakingly unfurled to each side of its body. The lowly, courageous worm was gone without a trace. And within minutes, a breathtaking vision of color and flight took to the air. Transformation.

It is all around us in this season of rebirth, and within us as well, if we can take lessons from the small creatures at our feet.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plants of the Week

Before listing Wapsinonoc plants that are ready to move out into other people's gardens, I want to feature one special plant: Anise Hyssop. There are so many ways that I appreciate this aromatic plant, from the reddish tinge on its beautiful leaves to its showy and fragrant blossom. If you would like a plant that is great in teas, is a tonic to your system, attracts bees and butterflies, and comes up each year without fuss or trouble, anise hyssop might be a potential new friend.

Besides anise hyssop, here is a list of things that I will have at the Grant Wood Farmers Market in Iowa City tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, April 23:

Medicinals
Lion's Tail
Fenugreek
Mugwort
Catnip
Milk Thistle
Blessed Thistle
Motherwort
Maralroot
Bergamot
Roman Chammomile
German Chammomile
Wallflower
Toothache Plant

Culinary Herbs
French Sorrel
Sweet Marjoram
Christmas Basil
Sweet Basil
Chives
Lavender
Rosemary
Oregano
Thyme
Peppermint
Edible Chrysanthemum
Cilantro
Dill
Chervil

Veggies
Swiss Chard
Collards
Kale
Arugula
Lettuce
Marketmore Cucumbers
Celery

Heirloom Tomatoes
Peacevine
Cherokee Purple
German Pink
Garden Peach
Pink Brandywine
Wapsipinican Peach
Hillbilly Potato Leaf
Long Tom
Amish Paste

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Woke Up to Snow!



Snow in April is surely not very uncommon in Iowa. NOT to have snow in April is probably more uncommon. Yet because I went to bed thinking the low temperature would be 40 degrees or above, it came as a surprise. I ran outside, first checking the thermometer hanging on the electric pole: 32. Then I raced to the greenhouse (where I had not turned on the heat last night), pictures of botanical disaster running through my mind. Relief flooded through me as I saw that the temperature in the greenhouse was still 42, the tender plants looking cool but fine. And only then could I start to enjoy the novelty of flowers in the snow.

Just here (above), almost a month ago on the Spring Equinox, a group of us sat around a wonderful fire and celebrated the turning of the year. It was warmer than today. There is some lesson in this quixotic nature of the seasons. Is it that we need to be aware of that same nature in ourselves, and welcome or at least accept our own changes and inconsistencies? Nature will undoubtedly bring us enough warmth for our tender crops to grow, once we are well into May. But for now, we are still in that flux between two seasons and surprises can come.
Of course, most of the perennials coming up in our gardens or front yards are largely unaffected by this spring snow. Even a hard freeze at this point would only set them back a bit. The comfrey plants poking up through the leaves above are a good example. In a couple of months, these queens of the medicinal world will be huge and lush, with stems of purple flowers curving over the crown of each plant. I learned about comfrey when I was a young mother, just getting into a healthier lifestyle. Back then, it was common to use comfrey as an ingredient for my morning "green drink". Only later was there some research that indicated comfrey taken internally might be harmful. Even now, some of the premiere herbalists in our country assert that the research was flawed and that comfrey is perfectly safe to consume. I suspect they are right. But what I do know is that even if we refrain from taking it inside our bodies, it has wonderful qualities. Used in a topical salve, it is a deep healer. It is an ingredient in both of my salves (one for skin ailments and one for arthritis). You can use a compress of leaves to ease swelling, pain, or injury. And its beneficial effects are not limited to humans. Comfrey leaves placed around any plant make a wonderful fertilizer; comfrey leaves soaked in water and then poured on plants give a special boost. The plant has deep roots that pull to the surface important minerals, making them accessible to other plants. So honor your comfrey. It has a special place in Nature's pharmacy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reassurance in the Garden

There is something about the normal progression of spring that surprises and elates the spirit. We get used to disappointments in life. There are the small daily ones that we can shuck off philosophically, but then there are the big ones. These are harder to accept, so we seem to have a separate compartment in our brains for big ones, ones that we don't feel we have much power to change, like the disappointment that humans seem to be destroying the earth that supports them, or that we have not found a way to transcend large conflicts without going to war. We live with the daily knowledge of all these potentially life-threatening things in the world. And so when I go out to the garden in early spring, seaching for signs of life, it is exhilerating to find that yet again Nature has come through. For weeks now, some perennials have been growing above ground, but the dead branches of last year's growth on other plants make me prepare for another disappointment. Oh well, I think; these things happen. And then this morning there is a whole row of some as-yet unidentified perennial herb that is showing red-green growth just peeking out of the soil, and I feel like kicking my heels in joy! Yes! Another successful voyage through a hard winter.

The top picture above is of bergamot coming back. Bergamot is such a beautiful, vigorous herb. It will survive anything, drought, flood, heat, cold. The second picture is of the plant I just found this morning, its identity still a mystery because it is still so tiny. The third picture is of Maralroot, a new (to me) wonder medicinal. Here's what the Richter's Herb Catalog says about it: "Siberian perennial with remarkable metabolic and tonic effects. Studied by Russian scientists and used in the Russian athletic training program for decades. A potent "adaptogen" that helps increase endurance, reflexes, concentration, and faster recovery from exertion.....Improves memory and learning." And it seems to love growing in Iowa, adapting from Siberia just fine. I haven't harvested any roots yet, but my second year plants are already lush and growing fast. This year they will produce their first lush violet flowers. And I have plenty first-year plants at my stand at the farmers market, if any of you are interested in trying this in your own gardens.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring is Sprung!

Wonderful spring weather these days! Just right for planting early crops. There is no frost in the forecast for at least a week, and the days are going to be a bit cloudy (the best weather for transplanting) as well as warm. Tomorrow is another farmers market at the Grant Wood School in Iowa City (2-5:00), and I am offering a few things in addition to the ones listed in the last posting. Here are the new ones, all in 4 inch pots. All but one are perennials. You'll have them year after year!

-Catnip - relaxing, good for digestion, and of course cats love it
-Motherwort - wonderful tonic herb; gentle regulater of the heart; mellowing effect
-Wild Bergamot - good in teas, refreshing as well as relaxing; beautiful flowers
-Roman Chamomile - soothes stomach, pineapple flavor in tea, soft and durable ground cover
-Blessed Thistle - leaves as well as roots are eaten from this interesting plant
-Milk Thistle - it is the seeds of this valuable medicinal that are potent for strengthening liver and kidneys
-Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum - leaves and flowers good in salads and stir-fries; Oriental heirloom
-Pennyroyal - wonderful aromatic fragrance, not taken internally these days, but good ground cover
-Maral Root - one of the most valuable medicinals; many benefits from this rare herb
-German Chamomile - the only annual in this list, but vigorous and showy, making wonderful tea

Stay tuned for more. Many other plants will be available in the next few weeks. The last pre-season Iowa City farmers market at Grant Wood will be on Saturday, April 23rd. Then there will be a plant sale to benefit Backyard Abundance at the recreation center on Saturday, April 30th, from 10-12:00.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cool Weather Seedlings available at next Farmers Market

This blog is a good venue for letting folks know what I'm going to have at the  next Farmers Market. It also seems a great way to give some interesting information about particular plants and recommendations about planting and care. I'm excited about this! Especially the medicinals have such rich and interesting histories as well as uses. Most of the medicinals in my greenhouse will be ready by May. But during April, I'll be selling cool-weather veggie seedlings like the ones above. It is too early to put the tender annuals out in the garden yet. But it is a great time to get the cool-loving plants into the ground. They can stand some frost.

The next farmers market in Iowa City is on April 9th at the Grant Wood Marketplace. At that market, I'll have the following:

4-Packs of vegetable seedlings @$2.50:
Arugula
Kale
Cos Lettuce
Bibb Lettuce
Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
Collards
Cilantro
Dill
Chervil
Fennel

Big pots (second-year plants):
Rosemary - $8-10
Oregano - $6
Lavender - $6
Thyme - $6
Peppermint - $6
Anise Hyssop - $6

I'll also have a good supply of the two healing salves: Herbal Healing Salve (for skin conditions) and Arthritis/Joint Pain Salve. Prices of these: $6 for 1 ounce jar, $9 for 2 oz. jar.

I may also have some herbal shoulder pillows and eye pillows @ $24 and $9-10 respectively.
See you at the Market!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Prairie Fires and Watercress at the Spring

Starting the fires

Lines of fire moving to the center

Further downhill, Cold Spring
A Stream-full of Watercress
My family has a beautiful acreage called Cold Spring Pond two miles from Wapsinonoc Gardens. Once every year or two, we burn the prairie grass on selected stretches of the hillside, and yesterday was the day. It was perfect weather, dry, sunny and only a slight breeze. The preparation takes more time than the actual burning. Three of us dragged hundreds of feet of hoses around the perimeter of the burning space, wetting the mowed grass (and some evergreen trees) in a four-foot wide strip to keep the fire contained. And then Kent began setting fire to the edges, moving slowly around the circumference, with the other two of us standing watch with hoses to squelch any wayward flames. Watching this much fire is an awesome sight. It stirs one at some deep level, one of the primary elements that we don't see often enough. Once the lines of fire are burning toward each other, moving toward the center, the flames and smoke get bigger and bigger. By the time the separate lines of fire are almost to the center, this roaring inferno is scary with its power and ferocity. You can't help but think of the early settlers on the prairie, with an out-of-control prairie fire moving toward their log homes, using every tool at their disposal to fend off disaster. The whole burn yesterday took less than an hour, leaving a blackened hillside. But in a few days this same hillside will begin to turn a bright green, and prairie flowers will again raise their leafy heads to the sun.

Just downhill from our prairie burn is Cold Spring. It provides the water for the cabin above as well as the pond, with plenty to spare. The water tastes wonderful, and my cousin Ken has also used the water to cool the cabin with a home-made air conditioner that is inspiring to watch in action. Seventy five years ago, my father was given a sprig of watercress that had been brought from the east coast by visiting friends, and planted this sprig at the spring. The rest is history! As you can see from the bottom photo, the cress loved this spot and has flourished beyond anyone's expectation. Not only does it surround the spring head, but it has taken over a good quarter of a mile of the stream below the spring. All winter long the watercress thrives, a green spot amid the snow and ice. Soon it will begin to flower, so now is a great time to harvest, before the flowering. I will have watercress for lunch today, and for dinner, and for lunch tomorrow. There is nothing like it. I am grateful....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

new rosemary cuttings

From medieval monastic gardens to modern doorstep herb pots, rosemary has held an almost revered place in the hierarchy of herbs. Why is that, I wonder? I'd be glad to hear stories about the importance of this plant. In ancient times, it was thought to heighten memory, to strengthen bonds of love, and as a symbol of fidelity. Wearing rosemary leaves in a bag around your neck was believed to protect you from fevers.

In our more scientific era, it has been shown to relieve headaches, improve memory, strengthen the heart and circulatory system, regulate blood pressure, and improve digestion. Wow!

Rosemary originally came to us from the Mediterranean region, where it is still used liberally to flavor meats, breads, vegetables and wine. Someone said, "It comforts the heart and quickens the spirit." I live that. Whatever the magic of this aromatic herb, it certainly seems to have found a place in our hearts today.

If you have a rosemary plant that you would like to use to start some new plants, you can take cuttings of 1-2 year-old branches, at least 3 inches in length. Cut off the top of each cutting, remove the lower leaves and leave just one whorl of leaves high on the stem. Stick the lower part of the cutting in a tray of wet sand, make a tent of plastic over the tray to keep in moisture, and put in a warm and light place until a good root system develops. Here's a photo of some of my little rosemary cuttings, working at putting out new roots. Aren't they beautiful?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Story: The Old Woman and the Dream

Once upon a time there was a woman in the last half of her active life who decided to move to the country. When she was a little girl, this woman had a vivid dream one night, a dream that stayed with her for many years. In this dream, an old woman lived alone in a little cottage surrounded by a picket fence right at the edge of a forest. The dream woman was a peaceful sort, busy but contented. She had flowers and herbs growing all around the cottage, and she knew how to use these for healing. The forest animals were not afraid of her. In fact, they came to her when they needed help with a broken wing or a cut that would not heal.

When our real-life woman moved to the country, she was not thinking of the dream. But as sometimes happens, this dream was hanging out on a back shelf of her mind, giving her nudges. And in a few years, the real woman began to resemble the dream woman in some ways. Healing was a theme in both their lives, and they both lived connected to the earth and the natural world. At first, the real-life woman studied books about growing things in her garden and looked for advice from other gardeners. She had good success with some plants and less with others, yet caring for and learning about her plant friends filled her heart with happiness.

Gradually her attitude about her work began to shift. Rather than growing her plants to make a living, she started thinking about her work as a labor of love. This freed her from worrying about making a profit, and allowed her to experiment and think more broadly. She also began to expand her methods for making decisions. Rather than relying altogether on books or advice from other people, she began to sit quietly in the garden sometimes, when she had a plant problem to solve. She would let herself become familiar with the plant as best she could, get a feel for what the plant's experience was, and often a solution would suggest itself to her.

Then one day this evolving gardener was sitting quietly in Quaker Meeting, as was her habit on Sunday mornings, when she had an epiphany. She had been thinking about the nature of life, about the awesome and beautiful intricacy of the world, of the soaring realms of the spirit, of the invisible interconnections between all living things, and of the mystery and meaning of it all. And then her thoughts moved to her garden and the promise of spring. And as she lightly held the image of her garden, surrounded and sharpened by the wider thoughts she'd been thinking before, the sun came out in her mind like a giant smile or peals of happy laughter. She felt herself become the comfortable and fearless woman of her childhood dream, standing among her plants with arms outstretched, and a tangle of earth sprites at her feet smiling up at her and reaching out to connect. The vast world was around her, full of mystery and meaning, and it was whole and right, and she and everything else were a part of it, were connected through it. At any instant, we can be at the center of the world, she thought. We only have to pay attention. We only need to let ourselves see and feel what is right in front of us.

This is not the end of the story of the woman who moved to the country. As it is with all our stories,  we keep moving into another and yet another present moment. Each of those moments will be informed by the past, and if we're lucky, will also be open to new discoveries. May your own stories continue with adventure and sun-warmed inspiration.

Rain and Geese

Sunday morning, and rain is falling from the sky instead of snow. Today Wapsinonoc Creek is running high and free. Just a few days ago I watched the ice breaking up, fast currents swirling above, below and around the frozen surface. This morning the temperature is hovering above 32 degrees, the ground wet instead of slick, the birds singing spring songs. Yesterday, as I walked south on our gravel road, two huge flocks of geese flew north high above me, their honking deep and resonant and without stop. The sound of geese touches something in me, an instinctive wake-up call. In my imagination, even the trees respond to that compelling sound, the sap beginning to rise. I wonder: do geese call all the way to their destination?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cottonwood in Late Winter - Medicine in the Making

Cottonwoods are brittle trees. The huge one on the south side of my house is always throwing branches on the ground. Fortunately, there is some advantage to this in the early spring; the large swelling buds found on the tips of cottonwood branches are used for making the classic "Balm of Gilead". Watch the ground under any cottonwood tree for the next month or two. I will be doing the same!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dug Out

February 7: I have dug myself out from the great snow fall, with the help of the county snowplows and my cousin's wonderful truck-propelled blade. High piles of snow on either side of these country roads make driving an adventure. The white is so bright outside that you can only see by squinting your eyes almost closed. Even on a misty morning such as this, the reflected light is intense. The snowpack is squeaky and hard underfoot, the air tingling in my nose. Winter has hold of us and is at the top of his game. Yet life survives around the farm. Chickens huddle together in their round house and deign to deposit several brown eggs in their nests each day. The two horses, mother and daughter, stand peacfully in the snow-covered barnyard, seemingly unperturbed by the weather, with barn cats strolling nearby. And in my house, a jungle of plants crowd all the south windows, flourishing in this protected space, responding to the promise of longer days with new shoots and ambitious growth. It is this early rush by my houseplant friends that gives me hope. Despite appearances, winter is moving toward spring.