Jun 28, 2012

Goodbye Rain, Hello Cinquefoil

 The rains have been in and out of the valley for a week, but seem to have finally let up.  Not before causing some serious flooding in some areas and a slide in a valley north of us.

I am hoping that the rains find Colorado this week - the wildfire reports from that state are terrible.  We've had our share of experience with wildfires here, being at the edge of a desert scrub area to the south and surrounded by forest in every other direction.  It gets very hot and dry here in July and August so we are always on wildfire watch.

While wandering the hills a few days ago, I spotted an area dotted with Cinquefoil.  This isn't a plant I've spent much time with so I'm planning on going back there to sit with it for a while.  In the meantime, I've scoured my books and found some information on the pretty plant.

Cinquefoil, also known as “Five Finger Grass” or “Crampweed,” is a wild perennial found across the US and Canada.  The serrated leaflets can number from 3-15 depending on the species.  When they appear with five leaflets, they look like the fingers on a hand .  Cinquefoil grows either upright or low and sending out runners like a wild strawberry plant.  The flowers also look a bit like wild strawberry flowers, but are usually yellow.

Medicinal Uses:

Being that it is of the rosaceae (rose) family it is not surprising that Cinquefoil is astringent, anti-inflammatory and diuretic.  Used as an infusion, it is wonderful as a surface wash for many skin conditions and can be used as mouthwash or a gargle for toothache, bleeding gums or a sore throat.  Because it contains tannic acid, it is considered helpful to stop bleeding.

Magical Lore:

Cunningham states: "The five points of the leaves represent love, money, health, power and wisdom, and so if carried cinquefoil grants these."

Illes's "Encyclopdedia of 5000 Spells" has two uses for cinquefoil.  Burning powdered cinquefoil in the bedroom will allow someone to dream of their true love, and carried by a fisherman, it is said to impart luck.

"Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic" lists money, love and warding off evil as five fingered grass's attributes and has a host of tricks associated with it.

Christopher Penczak, in his marvellous book "The Plant Spirit Familiar," has this to say:  "Cinquefoil is a common ingredient in classic flying ointments, though it is not known for any particularly narcotic or psychotropic properties.  As a flower essence, it helps clear any unwanted imprints and protects us during psychic experience, which may explain it's use in flying ointments.  Generally, the spirit of cinquefoil tends to energetically support us in whatever we do."

If you use cinquefoil for any medicinal or magical purposes, I'd love to hear about it!

Jun 25, 2012

Following The Fungus

Yesterday, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, while the rains had broken for a short time and the sun had finally appeared, I ventured up into the hills.  I pulled over at a place that had been calling me for a while, but where I had never stopped.   Wandering along, I found a trail of mushrooms.

With all the rains this week, mushrooms popping up everywhere is not a surprise.  But finding a ring of mushrooms around a small stand of trees was a pleasant discovery.

"For centuries, the sudden and rapid eruption of circles of mushrooms from the soil led people to believe that dark or terrible forces were at work. Lightning strikes, meteorites, shooting stars, earthly vapours, and witches have all been proposed as agents of their origin. 

In France fairy rings were called sorcerers' rings and in Austria, witches' rings. A Tyrolean legend claims that the rings were burned into the ground by the fiery tail of a dragon. In Holland they were said to be the marks where the Devil rested his milk churn. In Europe, the belief that fungi were the work of evil spirits or witches persisted well into the 19th century. 

In England, as their name suggests, they were places where fairies come to dance. The mushrooms around the perimeter were seats where the sprites could rest after their exertions. People in rural England claimed to have seen fairies dancing at fairy rings as recently as the start of the twentieth century."

I stopped and pondered the mushrooms for a short time and walked into the shade of the encircled trees.  I swear I had only been there for fifteen minutes, but when I finally went back to my car, I noticed that an hour had passed.  Time is different in the hills.  I get distracted by the birds and the creak of the trees swaying with the wind.  I'm sure it had nothing to do with my standing in the middle of a ring of mushrooms...

"Fungi have been the focus of many other superstitious beliefs and traditions. In New England folklore, a fungus called the "death baby" growing in the yard is a harbinger of imminent death in the family. In the district of Norrland in Sweden there is a tradition of throwing toadstools into bonfires on midsummer's eve (June 23) to ward off evil spirits. Look into the folklore of any culture and you're almost sure to find other examples. 

Even Santa Claus has been linked to fungi. One anthropologist has suggested that his red and white outfit symbolize Fly Agaric. Siberian shamans were known to consume this mushroom, and Santa's use of the chimney is similar to a shaman custom of leaving a dwelling through its smoke hole during a festival."

Whether there were faeries around, I could not say, but I was buzzed by hummingbirds, chattered at by chipmunks and the wind whispered secrets in my ear.  Not a bad reward for following a trail of fungus.

Quotes from:   The Fungus Among Us  (A fascinating site with all kinds of mushroom lore & facts.)

Jun 20, 2012

Giveaway Winners

Midsummer Eve by Edward Robert Hughes

Midsummer Blessings!

Let's get right to it:

The winner of "Jude's Herbal Home Remedies" is...   Diana!

And the winner of "Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint, and Sage" is...  Jill!

Please email me your mailing address to rueandhyssop (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll send out your packages.

Thanks so much to all who entered.  I hope your longest day has been lovely!

Jun 19, 2012

Summer's Little Helpers

I've just returned home from my camping trip.  It was a great time away and I managed to do some walking, reading and some good eating too!  I also ended up with a good burn.  The second day out, the sun was popping in and out of some cloud cover and the wind was cool.  I didn't pay attention to how long I'd been in the sun and ended up with a rather severe burn on my legs and the tops of my feet.

Luckily I had packed a jar of salve I had made with chickweed, plantain and mallow from my yard.  These amazing healers are the weeds that people dig out of their lawns and toss away.  I just cant part with these plants, and it's a good thing too.  My burn went from painful and sure-to-blister, to calm and healing in no time.

Plantain pops up in my yard in both long-leaf and broad-leaf form.  It is probably my favourite all-purpose healer.  It is touted as a styptic, a blood cleanser, a cooling touch on skin, an itch-remover and is even a great pulling herb (will pull foreign matter from the body - slivers, etc.)  I include it in any healing salve I'm making.

Chickweed is also a cooling herb and is very soothing on burns, rashes and cuts.

Common Mallow is another "weed" that pops up all over here.  Not only is it edible, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a wonderful addition to healing salves.  If you don't have time to make a salve, simply chew or mash one or more of these plants into a pulp and place them directly on the wound.

With Midsummer's Eve here and summer just starting to heat up, a little sun-preparedness is never a bad idea.  Make sure you check your yard for these cooling herbal helpers!

Jun 16, 2012

Getting Away

Just popping in to let you know that I am away until Tuesday the 19th.  I'm taking a cue from Dexter and heading out for a relaxing extra-long weekend with friends.

Don't forget to toss your name in the hat for one of two great herbal books.  Although I won't be able to add your comments until I get back, they will show up on the post before the draw on Wed.

See you next week!

Jun 10, 2012

This Week In The Garden - A Quickie

There has been a massive growth spurt in the garden this week after days of non-stop rain.  The chives need to be cut right back as they are now violating the personal space of the lettuce.  I'll get in there with shears this week and snip those cheeky buggers back.

The sugar snap peas have been blushing.  I've found two or three pink blossoms on otherwise entirely white-flowering vines.

Fun pea lore:  Shelling peas brings good fortune and monetary gain in business, as well as luck in love if a lady finds a pod with nine peas and hangs it over her door. (Cunningham's Encyclopedia)

Here I am again, staring at the lady's mantle.  I can't help myself.  I'm like a chicken, staring at all those little diamonds of water on the leaves.  Had I more time this morning I would have collected this water.  According to Judika Illes' Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, one should collect the dew (and the pollen from the flowers if desired) and add to a love potion for an extra kick.  Washing your face in the dew of this plant is said to bring a youthful glow as well.

Who says the garden can't be lusty?

Jun 5, 2012

June Giveaway

June is the optimum month for herb harvesting around here.  I spend quite a bit of time this month wandering the hills wild harvesting and snipping herbs grown in my own garden.  When July hits the Valley, the temperatures soar and the tender herbs bloom and then get a bit scraggly.  It is also the time when the fruit starts becoming plentiful and I need to turn my attention to jams and syrups.  So, while June is under way, I'm looking through my herbal books to find some ideas for remedies for my body and home using my harvest.

May blew by without me having time to give something away, so I'm giving away two books this month.  Each book is full of recipes and ideas for using your herbs as helpers in your home and medicine cabinet.  I'll throw in some of my favourite herb seeds too!

If you would like a copy of Jude's Herbal Home Remedies by Jude C. Todd or Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint and Sage (Herbal Solutions for Every Household) by Shea Zukowski, then simply leave a comment and make sure there is some way for me to contact you if you win.  I'll draw the names (by a random number generator) on the Summer Solstice (June 20th.)  Good luck!

Jun 3, 2012

Of June and Bliss and (Hopefully) Martinis

I'm not entirely sure what happened to May.  Somewhere between planting veggies, drying herbs, infusing oils, a super moon and an eclipse, I lost time somewhere.  The past three weeks of battling a severe chest cold has left me behind on my to-do list and my pile of "fun things that feed my soul" is gathering dust in the corner.

May was both unseasonably cold and unseasonably warm.  I'm not sure, with the way the weather patterns are across the globe these days, that there is going to be 'typical' weather any longer.  It feels a bit like a die toss each day.  Still, watching the storms roll into the Valley can take my breath away just as easily as a calm, sunny day where the lakes reflect the sky and mountains like glass.

There is much to be done in June.  I've left my business taxes to the very last minute (shameful for a bookkeeper.)  There are herbs to be harvested and dried, tinctured and infused in vinegar and assorted oils.  There is a garden faire to prepare for, a tent-trailer to ready for camping and veggie gardens to dote on.  I am thankful that I have the kind of life that allows for travel, plants and pleasure.  All of it takes work though.  And I've trudged through a dark winter to get here.

I throw the word "bliss" around quite a bit.  I talk about finding it, following it and falling into it.  But bliss - that utter joy and contentment - is not a permanent state.  It's as fluid as the rivers that run through this valley.  Sometimes everything is flowing smoothly and sometimes the rains come and everything rushes faster than you might like.  I think it is how we are able to find those moments of bliss, even among the storms, that sets us apart.

I would like to have a few acres of land and some chickens.  A boyfriend who doesn't forget to tell me he is already taken.  Hours and hours to study all the herbal books and course material I seem to be amassing.  A rather large travel expense account.  A tiny butt to go with my long, wavy hair so that I'm just a treat to see from behind.  And right now, a dirty martini.  Extra dirty, please.  I don't ask for much.

But I think it's important to note that my happiness and my ability to find and embrace bliss, does not depend on me actually aquiring those things.  (Except, perhaps the martini.)  It is those moments that please me, in spite of what I desire but do not yet have in my grasp, that make the difference in my every day.

It is my friend's chickens.  The way my friend's husband dotes on her.  The few wonderful trips I have taken.  The magic that moves through the garden at dusk.  My wise woman friend and her drum.  The moments I make my nieces laugh - which is so much more difficult now that they are teenagers.  It is discovering a new song.  A new prayer.  A new practice.

So much bliss to be found.  Even on the stormy days.  Even when the months fly by and the to-do list gets longer.  Even when it's hard to breathe.

I hope June brings you all much bliss and you find time as the summer settles in, to notice those moments that bring you great happiness.  And really appreciate them.