Healing Plants

A jumble of herbs and flowers.

There are so many beautiful plants and flowers where I live, they surround and amaze me. If all they ever provided were beauty, it would be enough. But beauty is not their sole attribute, they are powerful medicine as well. Some are gentle and can be used by all, and some are so powerful or dangerous that only someone with a great deal of training should utilize them. Pharmaceutical companies certainly use plants, sometimes safely, sometimes not so much. Simply because it is put on the market, it is not necessarily safe…one has only to look at Thaladomide in the middle of last century which caused devastating birth defects, or more recently, Darvon, Seldane, and Vioxx. Currently Pfizer and others are involved in lawsuits for the drug Zantac, containing ranitidine, now replaced by famotidine but still marketed as Zantac.

Are plants safer? Plants still have chemicals that can harm you. But they often have buffers that are protective as well. For instance, plants with salicylic acid have buffers as well, and proper use never results in ulcers, unlike its pharmaceutical offspring, aspirin. Are all drugs from pharmaceutical companies bad? Certainly not. Do I use them? Of course. But where the same (or better) results are available to me from plants I know, I choose them over pharmaceuticals.

So, I have chosen to persue a working knowledge of herbs and their effects. I am still very much learning, I will be learning for the rest of my life. But oh the rewards! As I delve into this, I plan to occasionally share an herb and its characteristics here. This will be simply for interest and pleasure. Do your own due diligent research before using any plant for any reason. Even benign plants may induce allergic reactions or be contraindicated for a number of reasons.

Tea for pain

Welcome to a paradise in the classic sense… a garden of herbs, aromatic flowers, and fruit, enclosed and provided with flowing water, for pleasure, enlightenment, and nourishment.

Feeding My Soul

There are clouds this morning, low on the breast of the land, I cannot see the disc of the sun break the horizon. Still, the patterns of light and dark, the rose and amber glow that shone from behind them formed a changing pattern that pleased my eye and slowly changed the sky to summer blue.

Sitting on my porch, I breathe in the heady scent of the lilac tree that reaches almost to the roof.

The taste of mint from my garden suffuses my morning tea, I swirl it round, enjoying the sweetness of local honey, the sharpness of the mint.
Birds chatter in the trees, protecting their young, feeding, singing in what seems pure joy in the morning. The dry leaves rustle with their rooting for worms and there is a rat-a-tat of woodpecker beak seeking for juicy bugs beneath the bark of my maple tree.
A breeze touches my face. With eyes closed, I stroke the arm of the rocking chair, its roughness as pleasing to my fingers as the smooth glass of my cup. I can feel the grain, the screws and the end of its arm.

Today is a feast for the senses. I am content.

We All Need Mountains to Climb

The start of the trail up Monterey Peak: I haven’t hiked a trail like this in a long time. A really long time. Its only 2 miles long, but with two sections of 20+ grades, it is far more than I was ready for, and probably more than I should have tried to do. Nevertheless, once I start, I don’t often quit… even if I should. So up I slogged, head scanning for wandering copperheads and singing birds alike. I saw interesting geology, this is a pretty complex area.

Technically, the Valley and Ridge Province of the Appalachians is an ancient folded series of sedimentary beds of the coastal province before the Appalachians began to form. In the Alleghany Orogeny, some 250 to 300 million years ago, a continental collision between Euramerica and Gondwana (two super continents) formed one giant continent, Pangaea. In the process, the sedimentary rocks along the edges were greatly deformed, raising mountains as high as the current day Himalayas! Time has deeply eroded those mountains, leaving our gentle, generous Appalachians. Boy is that a simplification of the process, but if you want any more info, just look up Appalachian Mountain Geology. You’ll get an eyeful!

So most of the rocks of the V and R should be sedimentary, and indeed are…but I saw gneiss and slate as well as quartzite and greenstone, none of which classically belong to this province. Greenstone. Now, that was not what I expected after reading up on the South Mountain Province. Greenstone is a rock pushed up from great depths during a colllision involving island arcs being squished between two continents. Think Pacific Northwest. Think California weird coastal mountains. I could see finding it in the Blue Ridge, but not expected in the Valley and Ridge. But there it was, innocently laying there for me to see. Tiny, eroded. Dark and mysterious. Green.

I really look forward to learning more about the geology of this area….like all mountain ranges, there are always surprises, always new things to learn. I cut my geologic teeth on Appalachian geology (though in the southern High Appalachians) but there’s still so much to be learned here. So much to see. I will leave you with some of the beautiful scenery I saw along that far too steep path to the crest of Monterey Peak!


Tolkien said ”Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars”. He wasn’t wrong.

Even the clouds could not block out the light of the full moon here. Though rain was predicted, it did not appear, and by morning the clouds and rain had settled in, but before midnight, the light was so bright I could have read by it. It cast shadows long and black, inky against the grey ground. Spring in Pennsylvania is sure to bring storms. ”Strong thunderstorms” the weatherman said. But the ridges here make their own weather, and often confound the weathermen…and even the meteorologists (who are not necessarily the same). This weekend is a lunar eclipse, it must have been a terrifying sight to early civilizations, but nowadays people travel long distances to see them. If the skies are clear enough, I should have a grand view from my front garden. One thing is for sure though. The moon will be there, and the stars and sun too. Above all clouds, above the smokes and vapors of our earthly conflicts, above the strife and the fury, those bodies which were set to shed a heavenly light on our earthly plane, will still be there, reminding us that we are both small and large, singular and universal. God’s children, both fallen and beloved. I am content.

A Shady Glade with a View

I have a little clearing in the woods in front of my house where I have put a small iron table and two chairs. From there I can watch the birds, see the nesting robin in my lilac tree, smile at the odd squirrel or chipmunk searching for nuts, and feel the breeze on its way from West to East. That breeze sometimes become quite…energetic, so much so that it ripped our flagpole right out of the porch pillar! My answer was to bolt the holder into a big maple tree on its eastern side. Now it flys, happily protected from the wind, where I see it while I drink my coffee or tea.

I plan on putting a display of shade flowers, probably begonias, impatiens and lobelias, on an old wooden barrow, and some bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley in the ground. I definitely need to weed around the peonies and columbines already there. The trees are mostly white pine, maples, and a few black cherries and oaks, with a lovely patch of sassafras for my teapot. Though I haven’t a mallorn tree, nor any elenor nor nephredil, this will be my small tribute to Lothlorien here in my little patch of The Shire. Long may its memory remain untarnished.

A Resting Place

You cant’t work all the time and be mentally healthy. That’s why the military gives troops leave, and why corporations give holidays….not for your entertainment, but because you work better, safer, more efficiently, when rested. I have chairs in my back yard, but they are in sun most of the day. I put some metal chairs in my front yard, but its been largely ignored and is overgrown. I decided to change that.

So I started with this…pretty rough. There’s actually a strip garden, totally overgrown with Japanese Needle Grass, except some day lilies. I live on a ridge, and the ground is about three feet of boulders, and then bedrock! I began raking and pulling needle grass, and realized I had a lily and some columbine too! There is an overgrown peony and its offshoot, overhung by a leggy Morrow’s Honeysuckle. So several hours later, dirty, sweaty, and tired, I had cleared most of the strip, relocated the columbine into a semblance of order, and planted 34 of the 56 lobelia I bought. Have I mentioned I have VERY rocky ground?

The next day I planted the rest of the lobelia, and then uppotted 6 bleeding hearts and begonias, and planted foxglove anf lily of the valley around the glade. The bleeding hearts went on an old wooden wheelbarrow, and the begonias on a tree stump. I got my spring tricked out riding mower back from its spa day, and mowed the front lawn. Tired, sweaty and dirty again!

The third day I was off to trim back the honeysuckle, discovered a patch of poison ivy (visually, not by touching!) and, lacking chemical warfare means or a flame thrower, dumped boiling water on it. Twice. Then it was off to mow the back yard. Have I mentioned my yard is VERY rocky? It is also full of hilly spots, fire pits and raised beds. I left the tough spots for the hand mower. Afterwards, I gathered up my honeysuckle clippings, cleared the tarps and cut logs, chainsawed my way through several rather large limbs cut down for visibility by a wonderful friend. Whew! Sweaty, tired and dirty again. Aren’t I supposed to get used to this? Not be tired anymore? Huh.

So today is finish the mowing, rake the little glade, stack the limbs I cut (great firewood!) and ENJOY MY SHADE GARDEN! Oh yes, and make a fire. I love fires, and its supposed to rain all weekend. We’ll see, I actually live right up against the mountain, so we are in a sort of rain shadow. maybe I can build the brick pillar to put my dyeing cauldron on….that puppy is way too heavy for my tripods!

Now I have a lovely little shade garden with a resting spot, flowers, and a view to drink into my soul. I am very lucky to live in such a lovely part of The Shire. My own Bag End. Have I mentioned I have VERY rocky ground?
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Tolkien wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” ….You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ”Well, the Road won’t sweep me anywhere for an hour at least,’ said Pippin” and its the same for me. I plan to enjoy my shady spot and soak in the restful view. (Have I mentioned I have VERY rocky ground?)

A Day in the Woods

Yesterday was a long day in the garden and house, doing chores and prepping the beds for transplants. I need a day off, which isn’t likely but I can at least take the morning. Caledonia State Park, in Michaux State Forest, is the nearest park, but going there isn’t at all just settling for easy. Many of the trails run alongside streams, and those are my favorites.

The music of the stream calms my soul and eases the stresses of the day. Tolkien said it beautifully: ”“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth…

The young cinnamon ferns are just beginning to unfurl their standards, and fallen trees adorn the moist forest floor. Moss grows on the old stumps and logs, and whole ecosystems inhabit the hidden crannies and secret hollows.

We’ve had enough rain recently to spread the streams across low lying areas, creating small marshes and bogs. It’s stayed damp long enough to allow reeds and skunk cabbage to flourish.

At the end of the Midland Trail, I came to the creek’s entry into the Conocoteague. There is a favorite spot, a fallen tree, decaying and falling to pieces, but with a strong young sapling, straight and tall, springing from the detritus. Life will always triumph over death. We are promised that in the Bible; it is why Jesus died, why he was resurrected, and why I continue to have hope, and faith, and love.

Every spring, we relive that resurrection, and we rejoice at the return of life and renewal of the world.

Canticle of the Sun

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.  And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!  Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, 
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, 
and through the air, cloudy and serene, 
and every kind of weather through which 
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, 
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful 
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, 
who sustains us and governs us and who produces 
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through those who give pardon for Your love, 
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace 
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Walking Towards the Sun

In the spring I have grown tired of the bleakness of winter, and would have the sun’s warmth hurry in the green growth and honey warmth I crave.
But like the days themselves, the gradual warming of the earth cannot be hurried. Each day the earth moves a little bit more towards the summer. Each day the tilt of the planet allows more sun to warm her in this hemisphere, cool her in the south. Its a balance, and one I cannot change. Nor would I, at least not when i think properly, like the rational person I am!
My neighbor’s double cherry is so lovely when in full bloom, dramatic and flamboyant…but now, when it is just beginning to show its color, to swish its skirts, it holds all the promise of the spring, all the fecundity of the summer, and I can drink in that bare touch of color like a fine mead of summer’s honey.
The dandelions are out. i have been gathering them and separating the petals from the sepals and bracts to use for wine and jam, and a cake or two to freeze for next winter’s coldest months, when a bite will melt on my tongue, and I will taste again the warmth of the summer sun.
There is work to be done, and some days I will wonder why I wanted my garden. I will sit, exhausted, looking at my dirty, messy stove and table, and wonder if it is all worth it. All the work, all the mess, all the pain. But then I will look at the jewellike colors of the jams and sauces and vegetables and medicines I have made from that toil, and I know it is.
I will taste the summer in the cold of winter. When the store’s shelves are barren, mine will generouly feed my family. When I need a salve or tonic, it will be there.
I live, covered by the rainbow of God’s promise, in as close to an earthly paradise as I can get. I light my little candles as a ward against the darkness, and i know…..
…because He lights The world, it is all worth it.

A Long Awaited Recovery

This year has not begun very well; covid hit first my husband, then me, though we were able to keep it from my immune compromised sister who lives with us. I had to reschedule my vertebral ablation for that. Then I got a toothache, and a big infection. Again we rescheduled the ablation…
We had noro virus sweep through the house, starting with my sister, then, when I was taking care of her, I got it. Taking care of me, my hubby got it. We were a sad and weak household. Once again the ablation was delayed. Each time my back got worse, after two months, I was a hurtin’ pup. FINALLY I had that two month delayed procedure, and by then could hardly move about. Today, the day after, is always the worst for pain, by tomorrow it will be very much better, and by Friday I will be skipping merrily along my garden path, blithely tossing pea seeds in the ground!

My Appalachians

I believe I may screw myself up to take a drive along my favorite mountain roads to refresh my mind and renew my spirit. As soon as I can lever myself off my hotpad, that is. And wait for my comfort kitty Rufio to move as well. One small victory at a time!

Comfort Kitty