Monday, March 31, 2008

vote for pete

Artists play a role in changing the world, if they choose to accept it... so when will the world recognize their contribution?

This may convince you. Vote.

by Pete Seeger

sung to the tune of "Wild Mountain Thyme"

Oh the summertime is coming, and the leaves are sweet returning
But those flowers of peace, it's for them I'm really yearning

Will they bloom, ever bloom?
Will they bloom in the springtime?

Oh you flowers of peace
When the world should be ringtime
Will ye bloom, ever bloom?

I built my love a bower by a clear, crystal river
But the thing her heart desires is a thing I cannot give her

Oh providence smiled impassive, while I fell on bended knee
Said, the lives of you empires are no more than swarms of bees

If you and I would see those flowers, get up and rouse your neighbors
When first the seed I'd planted, it takes long and careful labor

If you and I would see those flowers, go out and till the fertile soil
It will take more than prayers, it takes hard and sweaty toil

[these lyrics are found on]


What Kate Said! ... and What the commenters said, too.

Weird, I was just last week having the same thoughts about blogging - only my thoughts were amorphous and unorganized. Kate writes beautifully.

today is your last chance for march madness, 2008

Looking for signs of spring while waiting for the robins and worms to return?
We gardeners know our snowdrops, crocus, winter aconite, hardy cyclamen.
But in the bigger world ...
Sweaty little kids riding bikes with their winter jackets unzipped.
Teenage boys in (brrr!) shorts carrying skateboards.
Bagged mulch piles at gas stations.
The whole yard and garden merchandising thing.
Free roosters showing up on Craigs List, no one wants roosters.
Buckets hanging on maple trees, maple sap collectors laying hoses.
The buds on the trees starting to thicken - color will come soon, with the sun and rain.
Distant golden yellow Willows at the edges of fields are usually the first color that inspires my confidence as we drive through the brown landscape.
Today is your last chance for 2008 March madness.
Take bets on When the last snowpile will melt!

A strong cup of coffee

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A great quote

“I want our students learning art and music and science and poetry...”
Do you know who said it?

Green Thumb Sunday - tender lavender blooming in the window

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows .

The first time I participated in a volunteer project at Crossroads Village with the Genesee County Herb Society, a pleasant, knowledgeable woman gave me a fragrant tussie mussie of fresh herbs she had just made as a demonstration for the visitors. I knew then these were the kind of people I wanted to be around. Milli is still one of our stalwart members, and I'm getting to be an old hand.

I took the little bouquet home and took it apart - and rooted the tender lavender in a small pot. That little variegated feather lavender (I know, common names drive me crazy too but I'm not looking it up) grew for me for years until I let it get root- bound and baked one summer on the patio.

My take home point here, however, is that tender lavenders in pots are some of the easiest and most rewarding herbs to grow. They grow easily from cuttings in plain old potting mix, and will grow without artificial light if you can put them in a south window, and remember to water before the tips droop too awfully much.

The felty gray-leaved variety here has been neglected in this pot for years, and the small blooming stems are a reminder that I should do something for goodness sake. This year, little lavender, I promise some fresh soil, but let's wait until spring...

You can see in this third photo, how I'm doubling up my indoors-square-foot gardening-in-front-of-the-window scheme by stacking the smaller Dutch lavender on top of the soil in the French lavender's pot,in a space left bare by some heavy pruning back done last year on the French lavender. A curry plant is also having a good winter right there in its front row seat.
Waiting for spring...

Friday, March 28, 2008

You never know what you'll find in a compost pile

I immediately tripped over this following poem after my usual habit of following a link back to the commenter's blog (after yesterday's explainer post). Hedgie, your blog 'the compost pile' is a whole book of poetry, years of poems, and good poems, and I'm so excited to find it. I'll be spending time there, Thank you thank you thank you!

For other readers, Here is the pointer, go.

Monday, June 12, 2006


The first time we grew herbs,
we planted the whole back yard,
and the harvest took us by surprise;
we simply weren't prepared
for the burden of abundance
we found ourselves faced with.
Some herbs to be used fresh,
with others, just enough, to see
us through the winter with delicate
reminders of the warmth and motion
of summer gone -- that's all
we thought we'd have. We cut, bundled,
and tied stems -- rosemary, thyme,
marjoram -- and hung them from the cords
we'd stretched across the pantry. Without
making a noticeable dint in what still
flourished in the sun. We stretched
more cords across the kitchen, cut
and hung more herbs -- dill, mint, tarragon --
without reaching a conclusion. More
cords across the den, more herbs --
oregano, sage, rocket -- then into
the bedroom -- basil, chives, savory --
before arriving in the living room --
parsley, fennel, bay -- and the end.
Tsunamis of scent swept through
the house, swamping the day-to-day
with rich exuberance that tired
the nostrils. Neighbors complained
that we were using too much air
freshener. Bees lay siege well
into winter. Eventually, fragrance
faded, and we were left dodging
dangling bundles gathering dust,
lashed together with spiderwebs.
We gathered them -- wheelbarrow
loads -- hauled them out, and
burned them; it took much of the day,
and the scents returned, ascending
back to the sun.

Now we ask only for the merest pinch, artfully deployed
by the sparest of hands.

posted by Hedgie

Post note: Having a plain and ordinary mind, I can't imagine having such a gift for describing. This poem strikes a chord. I hung the rooms of my house with bundles of herbs and herbal wreaths for years (probably embarrassing the kids now that I remember it) and only a few years ago upon the excuse of 'needing to paint', did I take them down and store them 'temporarily' in bags out in the garage.

It was enough to lose the attachment which we all know is a step up the karma ladder. But they've been in the bags in the garage for two years now (and wonderingly enough Herb hasn't commented on them, probably fearing that if he did say something I'd re-hang them, Ha!), me being too sentimental to pile them all on the compost heap. Now I know what to do with them: a bonfire. Maybe on the next quarter day? I am part Scottish, so it might just be in the genes.

1424, from Lowland Scot., from Gaelic bealltainn "May 1," important Celtic religious rite marking the start of summer, probably lit. "blazing fire," from PIE base *bhel- "to gleam" + O.Ir. ten "fire," from PIE *tepnos, related to L. tepidus "warm." But this derivation of the second element is hotly disputed by some on philological grounds. Fires were equally important in the other Celtic holidays. Also known as "Old May Day," since after the 1752 calendar reform it continued to be reckoned according to Old Style; it was one of the quarter-days of ancient Scotland.
Online Etymology Dictionary 2001 Douglas Harper

Thursday, March 27, 2008

flowers and candy

On my turning path again. So I'm rumbling around this morning reading and absorbing words from clicked link to clicked link on the great big net. Dissatisfied with this blogging thing, unhappy with politics and the big world outside of my backyard, in anxiety at contemplating the future for my children and grandbabies. Generally unhappy. Discontent (what is the derivation of that word?) Feeling a bit of what is called, in the world of liberal bloggers, 'cognitive dissonance'.

Casual reader, as I've told it before this is supposed to be my 'happiness and light' blog. A guide to gardening and living a herbal life. Photos of my backyard and my garden projects. Recipes and tips. A bit of pointing to things I like and words that inspire me. It hasn't been that. I'm sorry.

'How-to' blogs bore me. The perfect garden is out of my range and I'm not a photographer. 'Other People's Stuff' is fun to look at, but ultimately meaningless to me. Candy.

If you look back in the archive at the way I began garden blogging it was what I would call impersonal in the way a Hallmark greeting card is impersonal. I read my first review that implied as much. And I took it to heart and tried to journal a bit more about my life. Fewer quotes, less poetry. It works, for bloggers out there who want readership: be original.
But now, for me, once again I'm finding myself at another turn.

At this point I'm thinking of turning this so called garden blog into my simple journal, no theme, no writing for 'the community'. If you are still reading you are welcome to continue on my path with me - it is wide enough or we can go single file in the untrod parts, or I guess you will find again your bigger road.
But as usual I digress. We are in the weeds here.

This morning I found some interesting things that dug up some memories and associations. As I told before, I am not of the superstitious bent, but my life has proved to the scientist mind in me that there exists coincidence and prescience in the world that is verrry verry hard to rationalize. Or maybe it is just my mind filling in the blanks and drawing Venn diagrams of inclusions and links between meaningful moments.
I've talked enough for now. I'll continue some more on this path later.
And yes I still owe you that cactus jam recipe.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

quote from (Sierra Club's) daily ray of hope

"It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression or resistance." -- Senator Robert Kennedy

(And may I add, Senator Kennedy would have been exceedingly proud of the man his son, Robert Kennedy Jr. has become.)

Kitchen Gardeners Unite

Roger Doirion of Kitchen Gardeners International, also known as KGI, sends a monthly newsletter that is really well done with articles, recipes, videos, the kind of stuff I like to read and think about ... Topical, insightful, enthusiastic about spreading the concept of kitchen gardening as a kind of socially responsible movement. This month's offering showcases KGI particularly well, go read it and subscribe!

There is a lot there to keep you busy, but one take home message was Roger's pointer towards this site:

On Day One: Your ideas for a better world.

Especially good for us Zen gardeners, who use gardening time as a stretching exercise for both the body and the spirit, this is a fine focal point for your next quiet moment:

Just imagine what you would advise the next president to do on day one of a new administration. Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? ... Drill the Arctic? ... or plant* the front yard of the White house with beautiful veggies? (*Roger's idea, and a fine one that.)

Nothing is as good as being the change you want to see. That is the meaning of the word manifest. Don't sit around hoping for supernatural beings to give you heaven on earth after you die, or waiting on the whim of the rich and powerful to feed the world and clean up their messes. Just do it, yourself. Take the first step. Dig a patch and plant a seed. Get a friend involved. Let the grass roots grow.

You say, But what can one person, or two, do? We are so busy, and running as fast as we can.

I say, What are you running toward? Do you have time to watch television? Never was there a more crucial time to think of priorities. Even small change is good. Incremental change.
The small change that you work to make visible to your neighbors reinforce the change others with the same ideas are working to make manifest. Change needs to come from within our society, from us, not from the professional thought shapers in the corporate media culture.
So make a small change. Don't sit around waiting for supernatural beings to give you heaven on earth after you die. Or wait on the whim of the rich and powerful to feed the world and clean up their messes. 'Just do it'. Take the first step, after a while you'll see others walking the same path. Dig a patch and plant a seed. Let the grass roots grow.
We the People.

Post note: I got some comments/inquiries over the weekend about my political blog not being updated. I guess some folks enjoy a good rant. I am still commenting on the politics of the day, although not as, ahem, radically, at what I call my cranky green treehugger blog. It's been buried as a link in the sidebar, but here it is (link) again FYI.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday Once Again

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Mister "Glass Half Full" does his part for colored egg tree believers.
With age comes wisdom.
Join! Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

a quick photo of what I found in the garage

I bought, at drastic markdown prices, two bags of hyacinths (can't remember what color) and two bags of scilla (blue of course) last fall during the pre-Christmas post-Thanksgiving clearance sale in the garden department at the grocery store.
Took them home and potted them up and left them in the back of the garage and forgot about them.
Sometimes I am brilliant.

(Just a few days of sunshine and they oughta green up. I hope this shallow pot isn't too confining, but if hyacinths can bloom in forcing vases, then this can't be too bad...)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

sometimes you have to tidy up

I've rediscovered my first spring color. The hardy cyclamen is coloring up, can spring be far behind?

Most of the top parts of the epimedium turn brown and useless every winter. I imagine the heart shaped glossy leaves are probably evergreen in warmer hardiness zones. So I go out early and cut them back to provide a view of the tender new growth and I clean up the windblown tree leaves stuck around the stems.

That's when I rediscover one of my favorites, the hardy cyclamen, C. coum.
Here is a photo:

I don't know anyone else who grows the hardy cyclamen around here, even with all the multitude of Master Gardeners. Maybe they just don't care for its tiny-ness or think it is interesting enough to talk about. One expert gardener friend keeps repeating to me that there are no hardy enough cyclamens to grow here, although I have one right out in my epimedium patch. She doesn't listen much to me.

It's an odd little plant with beautiful small mottled leaves. The brown bulbous underground part sticks up a bit out of the soil looking like a half buried potato, I just leave it like that because that is what has worked. I worry that it will return every year, and make my expert friend right. The humble little thing doesn't 'leap and bound'. Its tiny flowers are petaling up right now, showing their very unusual (for our area) screaming magenta blossoms.
Cylcamen coum doesn't look like much now, but it'll perk up.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

... to my Irish friends!
Well there we were on Saturday night, having a late burger at the White Horse Tavern after the folk music program at the Greater Flint Arts Council and who should walk in but a Leprechaun with her friend, a glittering green foil Shamrock Tree. No lie. And I wasn't even drinking.
The group at the next table had been celebrating since 3 at the local Irish family/community gathering and were getting together to plan the rest of the weekend from gist of the conversation. A morning run, a pub crawl in Bay City, then more parties. Something about the timing of Easter made this particular Saint Pat's Day a three day celebration for party loving Irish hereabouts.
I want to be Irish.
If I had a cool leprechaun costume like that gal, I could jump up and dance a silly jig for a whole day and people would love it instead of thinking I was slightly crazed. I could drink Bailey shots and toast and joke. What a stress reliever for these long March days!
Anyway, now I can begin stories with "I was sitting in a tavern and a leprechaun walked in..." and be telling the solemn truth. Another check on my life list.

Anyway here is a picture of what I found at the end of my rainbow yesterday:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

GTS #8 browns and greens

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Our landscape is tinted dead leaf brown and winter tired evergreen shades. Everything color coordinates with the frozen soil and dead grass. But those hopeful snowdrops... so worth planting in the fall, like leaving a sign, "it will happen again" for those who come behind, or as a reminder to my future self to recall, recall spring.

a video from cooking up a story dot com

Friday, March 14, 2008

A daily ray of hope

Some more inspiration I'd like to share with you if you need some:
If you sign up for it (link) The Sierra Club will send you a "daily ray of hope" which is a thoughtful photo and a thoughtful quote in the way of hope for the earth and we its inhabitants. For instance here is today's:

Me: I love bears. Teddy bear picnic, the dump bears in the U.P., the bears in Yellowstone that we fed marshmallows through the window of our 57 Impala when we 'saw the USA in our Chevrolet'. I remember the day I realized that if I live an average span, then the polar bears as a race of unique beings were going to go extinct in my lifetime. Because of my love of comfort.

"For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear."
-- Henry Beston

Me: Henry Beston wrote a classic gardening/philosophy book, which I love to re-read, "Herbs and the Earth". Find a copy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

snowing again and a figurative ray of literary sunshine

Thought my bookish readerish type friends might appreciate this website I ran across a few days ago. It's called Daily Lit, and what they do is send you a 'page' of a book of your choice every day in your e-mail. I know, you think you get too much e-mail as it is! and so do I, but this is different for me and you might enjoy it too.
It's a little 3 minute escape, like the old Calgon commercials I used to see on the telly. Remember those spots? the lady in the bathtub dreaming "Take me Away, Calgon!" but I digress.
I chose an old favorite, "The Wind in the Willows" and rereading it a page a day I'm seeing again the humor and gentleness and love of the natural world that made the book a favorite back when.
Some are free, a few need a paid subscription. It would take a long while to run out of the free classics at a page a day - I might have chosen Cervantes or P.G. Wodehouse or Edith Wharton, but I wanted simple pure escapism. Go see if there's a book for you, and let me know!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy Sad

Happy - Spring is coming.
Sad - It snowed this morning.
Happy - The snow is disappearing.
Sad - But Spring isn't here until you can smell the worms.
Happy - I saw my friend Sharron today at the afternoon movie at the Flint Institute of Arts. The movies are about women artists this month, and today's offering was a 1974 documentary by Amalie R. Rothschild about her grandmother, mother and herself.
Sad - We (Sharron and I) have very similar stories involving our 'life with grown children'. She is so much wiser than I.
Happy - I returned her books and lent her my extra copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible. It's good to have friends who read serious literature and like serious film. And who have time to share them with me.
Sad - It is sooo grey outdoors today.
Happy - When I got home I found my harbinger of Spring in the backyard, the snowdrops, melting themselves a nice roomy spot, and petalling up for promised bloom.
Sad- Spring is coming. Will I be up for another year of gardening?
Happy - Spring is coming. The snowdrops are back.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Living in A Label-Free World

First, I have to admit that at certain various times in my life, Neil Young has been my numero uno fave artist. And this tiny eco-activist girl is too cute. So bop along!
Dan Sullivan, eco-activist and online editor (check out, sings about the dangers of genetically modified foods and the USDA's tepid and totally inadequate regulatory efforts.
To Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World'.

Monday, March 10, 2008

cleaning out some old files...

... and I came across this something below which I've saved for years on my old hard drive. I don't know where it came from, but the format looks like an old AOL bulletin board. Somehow it resonates with a questionnaire I filled out this morning, one question of which was 'Why do you keep a web log?' And in my case, why do I "garden blog"...

I hate writing essays so I kept my answer short:
Communication. When I was a child I used to shine my flashlight into the night sky. Just another flickering light in the big ol' universe.
So today I'm posting this old bit of flickering light, don't know who wrote it. If you do, let me know.

Subj: the love of Nature
Date: 97-05-10

I am invisible. I am the force inside you, compelling you to the window of your stuffy office to stare out on the world. I am the longing to be out there with the sparrows, pigeons, and squirrels in the park. I am why you carry dry cereal in your pocket in case you have lunch in that park.

I am the voice of your childhood. I am calling you to remember. I am why you have fond memories of watching your now aged father working the fields and tending the garden with abandon. I am the reason the same man remembers with fondness, you watching him from the tall grass rescuing the toads and snakes that he uncovered. I am the hawk that soared overhead as this all took place.

I am a free spirit. I am why your house is unkempt at times as you are drawn to your patio, your deck, your lawn chair, your garden. I am borne on the fresh air and I compel you to observe your surroundings. I am what makes you look closer when you catch a glint of light on a branch to see a perfect tiny orb web. I am what makes you look down and freeze as you are walking, only to see a tiny ant carrying a huge grasshopper to his colony. I am that colony working together to get the grasshopper down the too small entrance hole. I am why you are still kneeling there 15 minutes later. I am why kids love to be naked outdoors.

I am the voice of fantasy. I can turn your children into prancing Arabian horses, or explorers of new lands. I am why they play outside in their school clothes, because I cannot wait. I am every bug, snail, frog, lizard, snake they have brought you. I am why they wonder if there could be dinosaurs in your woods, or alligators in your Midwest pond. I am always there for them, providing new ideas every day.

I am curiosity. I am why children need to see into the birds nest and why they are not satisfied to watch from the ground. I am why children love crickets and earthworms. I am why they carry small sticks to poke at the ground. I am why children do what they are told not to. I am why you buy field guides. I am compulsive and this is why you buy several on the same subject. I am why you overcome your squeamishness and picked up a wandering crayfish. I am why you got pinched.

I am a lover of art. I am why you notice that the birds have so many colors and songs. I am why you have one of everything in some gardens and orderly mass plantings in others. I am why you have shade gardens and sunny gardens. I am why you plant for hummingbirds and butterflies to add their own brushstrokes to your unfinished work. I am why you notice from the hilltops that the fields look like a patchwork quilt your Grandma made. I am why you think a rattlesnake or copperhead is beautiful.

I am contentment. I am why you can lay awake at night and listen to the chorus of frogs and crickets. I am why you lay on your back on a blanket and watch the clouds. I am the animal shapes that you find in the clouds. I am the smell of freshly cut grass or the sweet smell you smell each spring on your walking path and have not yet identified. I am why you garden whether on an acreage, large lot in town, or in pots on your balcony. I am why you hum when you water the plants and feed the birds and squirrels.

I am the love of Nature.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lucky #7 Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

My solar calendar reference, the White Oak tree (on the right - behind the garden shed), dawn, late November '07.

The Colorado Blue Spruce tree in the foreground left, is 'no longer with us'. In this part of the world, white oaks are native trees, and much more valuable than the 'exotic' Colorado spruce. These two trees illustrate my point: the oak is still growing at age 175 plus. The spruce tree was diseased and dying, and became a liability from the age of about fifty. The oak still hosts wildlife, plants acorns, and provides beauty. The spruce is mulch.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

springing forward on the path

This post is dedicated to the completely irritating modern concept of Daylight Savings Time which removes the natural element of time from our daily rhythm and replaces it with a an artifice, complements of that overbearing institution of behavior change, your government.

"The gods confound the man who first found out how to distinguish hours. Confound him, too! Who in this place set up a sundial to cut and hack my days so wretchedly Into small pieces! When I was a boy, my belly was my sundial - one more sure, truer, and more exact than any of them. This dial told me when 'twas proper time to go to dinner, when I had ought to eat. But nowadays, why even when I have, I can't fall to unless the sun gives me leave. The town's so full of these confounded dials, the greatest part of its inhabitants, shrunk up with hunger, creep along the streets."
Attributed to Plautus, c. 254–184 BCE

Ah, modernity.

When you live in a place for a while you come to know, if you are observant, the "genius" of it. The poet Alexander Pope said, "Consult the genius of the place in all things" and professional landscape designers and architects have made that admonition part of their common lexicon.

But determining the genius of a place means you need to spend a good deal of time there at that place (years I'd say) and that leads me to think the time component would be exceedingly difficult for the hired professional landscape designer, who must by definition be "on the clock". Two necessary components - living in a place over a length of time, and the act of being observant - are the key to understanding the genius of a place.

Which is I think, why the most charming gardens are personal gardens. There is a quality of warmth or humanity, in personal gardens (including many great estates that were once homes) that eludes public, commercial and corporate gardens. Lately glimpsing into the highly diverse personal gardens and gardening thoughts of a multitude of garden bloggers has validated my thoughts on this. There are some lovely things out there to be discovered, with time enough. (Note: A good place to start reading gardener bloggers is

Speaking of time, I wonder always this time of year, why did ancient people create their sundials, or solar calendars - Stonehenge, Newgrange, the megaliths of Carnac, the Sphinx, Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon - of something as unwieldy as stone. And the obvious answer is because stone is unwieldy. As old as the earth, solid. Stone can't be burned for fun or fuel, or moved by an 'act of God', discounting earthquake.

My personal, unwieldy, but living and therefore vulnerable, solar calendar or sundial is the old surveyor's white oak tree on the property line east of our house. It's over 175 years old now, its existence recorded in the Jackson administration when the township lines were being drawn. I love that tree.

I stand in the window with my daily morning cup of brew noting at winter solstice the sun rise south of the old oak tree, and then throughout the year I watch and remark as increasingly the sunrise moves north until finally at midsummer the rosy fingered dawn (I love The Odyssey too) sunrise will be such and so a distance north of the old oak. Reliably to turn once more in her path and retrace the journey south. I do love that tree.

Here's a short tutorial I enjoyed on Youtube, on making a sundial, filmed by an eighth grade science class:

Friday, March 07, 2008

following the turning path

Yes, that Latinesque quote of Phil's a few weeks back was from the same book I just finished reading this week. A book that a friend in a completely different area of my life told me I'd most assuredly appreciate. Which cropped up in a third conversation with another person who doesn't know the other two, and who had in her bookshelf this very book to loan to me. Coincidence.
Weird things like that happen to me, often. I'm not a 'coincidence theorist' but how else do you explain odd things popping up in tandem, often things that are invested with personal meaning of one sort or another?
I'd heard Phil first say it years ago while sharing a ride to the cactus garden, and then after a recent gardening meeting while packing up the visual aids, he said it again. Imagine my WHA!? of recognition and Ahah! of understanding when I ran across it while reading The Handmaid's Tale. (Odd, too, how Diane Rheme just this week mentioned another Margaret Atwood novel to her guest in reference to another topic. Maybe that path needs following as well.)
But these things do happen.
Then, in the same short stack of books on loan from Tree, why would second book touching on the repression brought on by politicized religion, only written thirty years later and in another language, turn up?
My take on both is that 'Taliban' can come in any hue, at any time, and with the same awful monstrous inhuman result... Spanish Inquisition, anyone? "God is on OUR side" has been used by every sort of organized religion to defend slavery, misogyny, child abuse, political repression, torture, war.

This probably belongs on the cranky blog, but those were the books that 'came' to me*, and that's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.
*I have a corollary gardening theory related to this, if you're interested, I'll post it later.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Day One of the Michigan Herb Associates Annual Spring Conference

Seems like a long time since I've been here at the computer to do more than the everyday catch-up. Monday I came down with some nasty bug that's going around - unconfirmed by the doctor, but it sounds like the flu with fever, bone aches, chills, dizziness, nausea, a bloated stomach that leads to throwing up and ... worse. The Yucks. The Mizeries.
Then Herb came down with it the next day. He even came home from work after trying to tough it out, so he wouldn't have to use any of his "sick days" allowance... and this man never comes home sick!
Well, I'm glad I didn't go for the flu shot last fall, because Herb did, and he got just as sick as I did. Doc must a got the wrong strain.

Being sick is not all bad. Off the computer, I did get three books read this week: (I finished) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (stunning! Why didn't I read it when it was first published? Thanks go to Beth for the recommendation), The Day I Turned Uncool - Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up by Dan Zevin (a little comic relief), and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (thanks for the loans, Tree!).
Sure makes me wonder * why the first and last turned up in my stack at the same time, they sure said something to each other about certain kinds of repression and repression's effect on human culture and humanity itself.
* I have a theory about that.
But, I digress. Happily, I obviously pulled through after a day flat in bed, and another day resting and recovering, and yesterday went to the first day of the annual Michigan Herb Associates Conference at Michigan State University, part of Agriculture and Natural Resources Week.
It was fun. My friend Carol, another certified plant nut, who is in charge of the Master Gardener Grow Labs in the local elementary schools went with me, thinking she'd like to learn more about herbs.

Always learning. It was fun. After a day at the Herb Conference, I always feel like spring is on the way.

If my personal economy was better I'd be at ANR week All Week and at the MHA Conference BOTH days. (Just think, two days at the Wildflower Conference and two more at the Beekeeper's Conference would have been too cool!) I can just imagine what fun they're having today. But with the increase in the number of garden bloggers out there, maybe some of the other multitude of gals I saw taking digital photos will be posting about day 2 as well, and I'll live vicariously. (Commentary will follow. I know, I still owe you that cactus jam story! falling be-hind as usual!)

I just made a photo mosaic of my day at the conference. It's over in the right hand sidebar under the photo of Daisy the Pot Girl. You can click on it to go to my Flickr page to see bigger versions of the photos I took yesterday. (Note: I redacted some whining about all the trouble I've had putting the mosaic in my entry.)
Well, it was easier to Flickr upload 30 photos than try to upload them one at a time through Blogger, or into the Herb Society's Yahoo Group album, so just click on a thumbnail and the magic of the internets will sweep you away...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Today's post is in honor of my old friend and fellow certifiable plantaholic Alicia, whom I saw yesterday morning at the KGCB conference. She planted a wonderful cactus and succulent demonstration garden at the home landscaping idea garden at the MSU campus and drove teams of volunteer Master Gardeners (including me) to maintain it for several years. Then last year, upon a design change at MSU, the cacti and succulents came home to Genesee County, to be installed at two Mott college campuses and at the Easter Seals office in Flint. What an enormous job for a little woman! Three garden installations, but done, as planned!

Most people may use succulents, among which are the sedums, sempervivums, cactus, and yucca, here and there as colorful accent plants with interesting texture among their other perennials, but Alicia's demonstration garden included only hardy succulent plants (with, after a few years, a backdrop of ornamental grass added to screen the view from the railroad tracks that ran through the university property.)

Here in Michigan, who knew we have a native hardy cactus, an Opuntia, that grows in our sand dunes on the west side of the state? (I've seen them growing in the state parks along Lake Michigan.)
I think succulents will become more important for landscaping in years to come, valued not only for their visual interest, but for their low water requirement which reduces landscape watering costs, and their virtual pest free state which makes maintenance so easy.
Tomorrow I'll tell a little story about my experience with making my own cactus jam from the fruit of my Opuntia pictured above. But for now I'll look for some more photos to post of this common cactus growing near my driveway that you see in the GTS photo.

Opuntia blossom:

Ripe Opuntia fruit:

And finally, what was in the mind of that cat! PeeWee, a feral cat who adopted us, took her baby kitten right to this bed of cactus to nurse her. Neither she nor the kitten seemed to mind the prickles at all! Go figure.