Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours
Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers
Is faded all - a hope that blossomed free
And hath been once no more shall ever be."
John Clare, from The Mores

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

quote for the first mild March day - a month late

"It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door..."
- William Wordsworth

Monday, March 29, 2010


All Nature seems at work. Slugs have their lair -
The bees are stirring - birds are on the wing -
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday, March 28, 2010


"There is hope for herbalism and natural healing in the 20th century. Everywhere a revival of interest and a new spirit of inquiry are evident... The debt to plants as the original sources of valuable modern medicines is today more readily acknowledged... The current revival of interest in the values, properties, and uses of nature's products gives hope that thousands of years of accumulated knowledge will not be completely buried in the stampede so dubiously named progress."
- John Lust, The Herb Book

Saturday, March 27, 2010


From an old copy of the Gilded Herb (a Canadian magazine):
"Spring is the season of hope and emerging new green life. Its promise has served to cheer many a winter-weary Canadian - even in centuries past. Here is a quote from Catherine Parr Traill, a pioneer of the 1800's. Emigrating from England, she found a hard life awaiting her in the forests here, but left us with a written legacy of her thoughts. In April, 1888, from Peterborough, Ontario, she wrote a letter to her daughter, Annie Atwood. In it she notes that "the cold winds still prevail" and that she "longs for sunny mild days". Then she says:
"I long for air and pottering about the garden and the sight of green things is life to me."

Friday, March 26, 2010


"If you've never started seeds, don't worry too much about it. Remember, nature has designed them to want to grow. You and the garden seeds have exactly the same goal ... what could be more reassuring?"
- Ruth Page in Over The Hedge

Thursday, March 25, 2010


"Flowers sweeten the air,
rejoice the eye,
link you with nature
and innocence
and are something to love.

If they cannot
love you in return,
they cannot
utter hateful words
even if neglected; for
though they are all beauty
they possess no vanity; and
living as they do
to do you good
and afford you pleasure
how can you neglect them!"
- Leigh Hunt

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


"A man of knowledge like a rich soil feeds
if not a world of corn, a world of weeds."
- Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


"But pleasure are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts forever"
- Robert Burns, from Tam O'Shanter

Monday, March 22, 2010


"The wisest, happiest, of our kind are they
That ever walk content with Nature's way,
God's goodness - measuring bounty as it may"
- William Wordsworth

Sunday, March 21, 2010


"This is what you should do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towad the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men ... re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss what insults your own soul, and your vey flesh shall be a great poem."
- Walt Whitman

Saturday, March 20, 2010


"I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love.
If you want me again, look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean.
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless."
- Walt Whitman

Friday, March 19, 2010


"To laugh often and much,
To win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children,
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends,
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others,
To leave the world a bit better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch, or a redeemed social condition,
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 18, 2010

early crocuses

"We must learn to look on plants not as mere points of color, but as old friends on whose coming we can rely; and who, returning with the recurring seasons, bring back with them pleasant memories of past years."
Henry Bright

The Tommies are blooming.

More Signs of Spring:
Tim, across the street, starting his riding mower.  Ahem, every time I go out the door.

Meijers parking lot - the appearance of huge mounds of plastic bound mulch and bales of soil.

All the cr@p people have thrown from their cars (who raised them?) over the past 4 or 5 months is not yet hidden by new weed growth.

I stepped on my first slug of the year this morning.

And, the Tommies are blooming!

"My house is the one with the cloud over it"

I ran across that line when I was Googling "skunk spray vinyl siding cleaning"...

Yes, a few days ago MY backyard was blessed by the presence of a dying skunk.
When I woke up Monday, there was the faint scent of skunk migration in the air, a familiar Sign of Spring.
But when I came home from my walk, and walked up the driveway, I sensed something was awry.
The "Cloud".

I went through the house to the patio, and stood there, wondering why the acrid smell wasn't dissipating; it was seeming to get worse every minute...
Because there, next to the south facing, sun-warmed house wall, was a dying skunk. Poor animal.

We often get groggy wild animals coming up to the protected, gravel lined southern el of the house in the early spring - opossums, skunks, feral cats. Our adopted feral cat PeeWee used to nurse her baby, Little Cat, there on a clump of Opuntia pads. But this skunk came to die in a warm untroubled spot. Poor animal.

I felt bad for him, in my better self I'd try to honor his slow death ... but the smell was infiltrating the house. I had to do something. I needed a Death Panel. So I called a local humane trapper - $85 to set the trap (which the skunk would have to rise from his deathbed to enter) and $50 to haul away. Remember I told you my budget is squeaking?

I called County Animal Control. No dice - they pick up pets only. But the nice public servant advised, after I mentioned the R word (Rabies, not Retard!), that in some communities the P.D. will send out a cop to shoot nuisance wild animals.
Great idea!

Grand Blanc Township Police sent out a policewoman within 10 minutes or so. Pretty impressive response time for a non-crime call. (Kudos to the GBPD!) In dismaying contrast, when my 2 year old granddaughter's bedroom door was being kicked in by a robber, it took Flint Police 3 hours to respond to the 911 call.

Of course, when all was said and done, the death panel decided we should wait until second shift before proceeding. The coppette told me the skunk probably didn't have rabies because it wasn't foaming and making the right noises. But to keep the cats indoors. And the angle of the coup de grace shot by her service revolver was too close to the house - siding, footing, perhaps the sewer pipe? could be compromised.
How did the situation resolve?
Herb came home. He took care of it.
A Day in The Life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"Nobody sees a flower, really - it is so small - we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
- Georgia O'Keefe

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
- Gertrude S. Wister

Monday, March 15, 2010


At this time of year I begin to think Winter will never end. My need to dig and plant is almost an overwhelming anxiety... but rest assured, it won't be long before the joyful color of early spring flowers, the living scent of the earth after a gentle rain, the peace of an evening walk in the herb garden will become reality!
There is something about memory of springs past that tugs at the heart, and sprouts anticipation for the magic of another season! The yearly renewed celebration of life.

Rose Hip - Ginger Cordial

This ought to be a fun, tasty and efficacious herbal cordial.

In response to an opening question by Linda Conroy on "how do people use rose hips", the following recipe was posted on Facebook by Heather Nic An Fhleisdeir, who makes a low alcohol tincture of rosehips and fresh gingerroot. She wrote this on Feb. 26:
 "(Fill) a jar one third the way full of dried deseeded rosehips, pouring just enough hot water over them to reconstitute and let cool. Fill with 40% alcohol (I like scotch whisky) and let steep three weeks. It has a nice body to it and since it is low in alcohol it extracts a nice amount of the nutrients. I like to mix it with my fresh ginger tincture, mmm"

Linda Conroy had posted: "Rose hips, fresh harvested from the wild contain between 1500-2500 grams of Vitamin C per 100 grams of weight. This is 47 times more than an orange. which contains around 53 mgs of Vitamin C per 100 grams of weight."
Of course it is easier to eat an orange... but rose hips are local, free, wildcrafted or cultivated food (uncontaminated with pesticides), and when you pick and process your own roses' hips, you become a personal part of the process of nourishing life.

I wrote: (I make) "Rose hip jam, but I always wonder if I'm destroying the Vit C by cooking? It does taste good, though."
Linda responded: "I do believe that some of the vitmain C is lost in each step of processing. The ultimate way to prepare roseship for optimal vitamin C is to prepare them fresh and not heating or drying them. This is why I like to steep them in honey or vinegar when they are fresh. But there are other nutrients that roseships offer when cooked, such as carotenes. (And since carotenes are fat soluable, roseship pie or cheese cake as mentioned above is ideal!)

Next year - rose hip honey, for sure!

Well, with all of that fresh knowledge, I decided to tincture some of my dried rose hips and in three week I'll add them to some ginger root honey I made.
Here is my method:
My Version Rose hip and Ginger root Cordial
March 11, 2010

1/2 cup dehydrated rose hips
1/2 cup hot, not boiling water
Cover rose hips with water, allow to cool. Then add:
1/2 cup Jack Daniels (43 percent Alc. by vol.= 86 proof)
Cover and allow to tincture for 3 weeks in a cupboard, shaking the bottle every day.
At the end of 3 weeks,stir in ginger honey, made by infusing 1/2 cup honey and peeled sliced gingerroot.
I'm not sure if I'll bother straining out the healthful solids to get a clear cordial - I'll try to keep this updated. However, rest assured, the rose hips and ginger won't go to waste.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


"the highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it."
- John Howard

New post at GCHS blog

March sunshine

Not The Sun per se, but look down,
the Winter Aconite are blooming today.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"... and no man but feels more of a man in the world if he can have a bit of ground that he can call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep, and that is a very handsome property. There is great pleasure in working the soil apart of ownership of it. The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world. He belongs to the producers."
- Charles Dudley Warner

Friday, March 12, 2010


"If it is the greatest and highest that you seek, the plant can direct you. Strive to become through your will what, without will, it is."
- Goethe

Reporting on Mom Nature

March came in like a lamb this year. Every day since March 1 has been lovely.
It especially seems like Spring is awakening because of the "simultaneous contrast" of the extreme winter of February!
(I just had to use that expression I picked up on Wednesday at the Flint Institute of Arts "movies at noon". This week talked about the later Impressionists and their struggle to eliminate line, and an exploration of color mapping, but that's another blog.)

Finally, saw a robin on Thursday. I've been outdoors every day since March 1st looking, waiting. Ever since that sighting, which is not really rare seeing as how there are "rogue robins" now who overwinter in Michigan, but for me it was my first robin of the spring - ever since that sighting, the bird chorus is singing whenever I open the door.

In the backyard Snowdrops are blooming. The honey bees are interested - amazing that there is enough to life in the world to bring the bees out, before the crocuses have even broken the surface of the soil. The pussy willows have broken bud - but barely, there is no pollen going on yet.

Yesterday I found honey bees entering a hole at the bottom of my compost bucket.

There was an (unusual for us) east wind blowing yesterday - and was it warm! Besides the honey bees, it brought life to the streets: teenagers- walking, hangin' out, skateboarding, pumping the bass and driving with the windows down - signs of spring.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

alternative view

"If you cannot work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."
- Kahlil Gibran
I always wonder what this photo would have looked like with a good camera?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time wasted

"It is the time you have wasted for your roses that makes your rose so important."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, from The Little Prince

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


"It would never occur to most gardeners to write a poem or paint a picture. Most gardens are the only artistic efforts their owners ever make."
- Hugh Johnson

program quotes

"A little garden,
all one's own,
is a real Eden.
Earth posesses no greater charm."

Monday, March 08, 2010


"If, going to someplace, we had first to settle how to put the front foot down, we should never get there. If the painter had to plan out every brushmark before he made his first, he would not paint at all. Follow your principles and keep straight on; you will come to the right place, that is the way."
- Meister Eckhart

link to GCHS blog

For those interested in the Genesee County Herb Society, I posted some memorabilia over at the GCHS blog (link) yesterday.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


"We sleep, but the loom of life never stops; and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up tomorrow."
- Henry Ward Beecher


This from the program from our 1996 Herb Symposium:

Lessons in Flowers
Flowers are one of the few non-controversial things in life.
But they are certainly great teachers. They nourish our sensibilities, quicken our wonder over Nature's magnificence and variety.
They prove to us, above all, that there is a power that defies mortal impatience, rebuffs willfulness, induces serenity in a world that is largely aimless bedlam.
The best way to realize this, of course, is to grow them as well as buy them.
Even the posture required is healthily humbling, for most of a gardener's work is done upon his knees; hoping with love and reverence that what he does will be approved by the Master who rules the sun, the earth and air.
If he has faithfully followed His law, the result will be something human lives should resemble: a transitory and fragile existence under the compulsion of time, but leaving an unforgettable perfume, color and form to its successors.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What is an herb?

"For generations the herb garden has provided rich and poor alike with food, medicine, fragrance, and flowers and foliage to make life even more beautiful.

"With all their diversity, herbs are not easy to define. If you look up the definition of herb in 'Webster's Dictionary, herbs are defined as herbaceous plants with soft stems, and do not develop woody stems. Herb gardeners do not take this definition literally, or they would not be growing woody plants like rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, even roses, or trees like black birch or ginkgo.

"A more encompassing and widely accepted definition of an herb is a plant whose roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, or seed pods are valued for their medicinal, savory, and aromatic quality. But there is ambiguity here as well. What about vegetables? They are used for their flavor and healthful benefits. What about plants without a practical use, but are valued for their historical or sentimental significance? Does this not include most of the plants that are grown? We find that we could spend a large amount of our time enjoying this wide, wide variety of herbs. One can find a new plant and new use for that plant nearly every day."
- From Grand Oak Herb Farm flyer
Written by one of the Hargroves (Beulah?)

Friday, March 05, 2010


"A great number of people get depressed during the winter time. Everything looks barren, fresh herbs and produce are scarce, and it seems the sun just doesn't shine very much. However, if we look closely you can see the beauty, the simplicity of what is left in the garden. The tree branches and plant structure create intricate forms that we do not see at any other time of year.

"Just because the trees lose their leaves doesn't mean we can't enjoy watching the birds that alight there. Seeds from the herb plants, now dormant, provide food for the birds. We can now truly reflect on, "for everything there is a season."

"Winter also gives us the luxury of time to use the bounty of our gardens in a creative way. The holidays provide a perfect opportunity to share our passion for herbs and gardening with friends and family. Dried harvests provide us material for many special projects. Twigs from thyme and lavender make a sturdy frame for a basket or wreath. One can package or bottle a special blend of herbs guaranteed to delight the gourmet cook in your crowd. Winter holds a special charm, we just need to look for it."
- From Grand Oak Herb Farm flyer

Thursday, March 04, 2010


"I play for Seasons; not Eternities!"
said Nature, laughing on her way. "So must
All those whose stake is nothing more than dust!"
And lo, she wins...
- George Meredith

Freeing up some time

Let's just call it that. No, I won't be at the Michigan Herb Associates annual spring conference at MSU next week, nor at my favorite herbalist's herb walks, nor at the Master Gardener conference, nor participating in the organic CSA we supported for three years, nor taking that painting class. My budget is squeaking.

Getting rid of the junk, responsibly

We recently had an old, heavy, big computer monitor die. Those are the ones with all that lead shielding, as well as the other poisonous heavy metals and plastics that were used in those gi-normous monitors. I read somewhere years ago that a monitor like that would have approximately eight pounds of lead in it. Instead of putting out to the trash collection where it could end up in the landfill, we took it to CBC recycling in Flint on Saginaw Street. They charge $5.00 but if you can wait until the spring county-wide recycling day it would be free. I understand Goodwill will also recycle these things, responsibly.

Speaking of recycling heavy old appliances, if you are a Consumers Energy customer in Michigan, and you have an old refrigerator or freezer to dispose of, call Consumers (or go online) and they will pick up the said appliance for responsible recycling ... and they will give you a $30.00 incentive! It's a program from the EPA called RAD (Responsible Appliance Disposal).

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


"The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the eyes of others only a green thing
that stands in the way.
As a man is, so he sees."
- William Blake

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

my artist, K, 4 years old

Can you see me in this portrait? Head, hair, ears, eyes, mouth, body (with shirt), legs, feet and at the last moment, arms.
And the script at the left reads: "Grama, I love you."
My heart melts.


(... shared by a FBF) Wealthy is a venue in Grand Rapids, MI, that's been getting some good "folk" press recently.

UPDATE: Coincidence? I just got the spring calendar from The Ark (in Ann Arbor @ see that May Erlewine and Samuel Seth Bernard will be playing there on Thursday, May 20 at 8 p.m. Good to get your tickets early.


'The snow lies on the ground, patchily, not with a good warm covering, but like a tattered shawl that lets in the cold. I know just where to look for the newcomers in the borders when spring calls them out."
- Helen Ashe Hayes

Monday, March 01, 2010

quote March storms

"The stormy March is come at last
With wind, and cloud and changing skies;
I hear the rushing of the blast
That through the snowy valley flies."
- William Cullen Bryant