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.

1 comment:

  1. I too was surprised by the snow this morning. But then, it is April in Iowa.