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Just a lovely plant in my neighborhood I am trying to ID
This is just a lovely little bush in my neighborhood I am trying to ID. So, it’s a  Psoralea pinnata, called the Grape Kool-aid plant because that is what it smells like.  Cool.
Sorry this is about 2 weeks behind schedule folks. The Japanese tsunami and nuclear meltdown really got me thinking about a disaster kit. We are 19.5 miles from Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant, on the wrong side of the San Andres fault, full moon, planets lining up, fish kills in Redondo Beach all added up to get the dang kit done. It was an intense two weeks but the kit is done. Thanks for your patience. Just one more thing.  There is going  to be a universal water prayer for Japan conducted by Masaru Emoto on March 31 at 12 noon. I hope all reading this will be able to join in. Thank you.

Lamb’s-Quarters
(Chenopodium album)

Pronunciation: ken-o-PODE-ee-um AL-bum

Chenopo’dium: from the Greek chen, “goose,” and pous, “foot,” or podion, “a little foot,” referring to the shape of the leaves in some species (ref. genus Chenopodium)

Lambs quarters - Very common looking weed

This European relative of spinach and beets, which grows throughout the North America, bears large quantities of edible, spinach-flavored leaves you can collect from mid-spring to late fall. It’s one of the best sources of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron in the world; also a great source of trace minerals, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. Wildman has an excellent piece on lambs quarter, also called goosefoot and pig weed. There is a look-a-like that will make you sick.  The tell-tale difference is the look-a-like smells like resin. So no worries just pinch the leaves if it stinks let it be.  I have found all the plants we are talking about here in my own yard or neighborhood. They are common. I have found, ID’ed and eaten everything I am posting here.  I am not going to tell you anything I haven’t tried myself. So, Here is Lambs Quarters which I just found and ID’ed this last winter.

One of the tastiest greens out there–It is in your yard – Find It – ID It.

Young lambs quarters Ewe to you.

Nutrients: Lambs quarters  has Phosphorus, iron, calcium, vitamins A, B2, Niacin, and C

Medicinal uses

Native Americans ate the leaves to treat stomachaches and prevent scurvy. Cold tea used for diarrhea. Leaf poultice used for burns and swellings. Fold remedy for vitiligo, a skin disorder.

This YouTube has some more interesting facts about Lambs Quarters. Ever heard of quinoa? You will be surprised what he has to say about lambs quarters and quinoa.

Chickweed

(Stellaria media)

Chickweed - Delicious and medicinal

Most are succulent and have white flowers, and all with practically the same edible and medicinal values. They all exhibit a very interesting trait, (they sleep) termed the ‘Sleep of Plants,’ every night the leaves fold over the tender buds and the new shoots. I suggest you only gather this little darling when the white flowers are present. The look-a-like is the scarlet pimpernel.   They grow very close to each other. You can’t tell them apart except for the flowers.

Side note: scarlet pimpernel

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pimper33.html

Chickweed look-a-like Scarlet Pimpernel

is known as the weather vane plant. When a low pressure is approaching the flower will close up to protect its pollen. Low pressure means there is a change of weather on the way. Dandelions flowers will do the same thing. But if there is a puff-ball on the dandelion the plant releases the puff from the stem before it rains to insures reseeding. Watch those puff balls. High pressure means clear skies. I digress. Back to Chickweed.

Gather fresh edible plant between May and July, as soon as flowers appear, it can be used fresh or be dried for later herb use.
Properties
Chickweeds are Medicinal and edible, they are very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach. The major plant constituents in Chickweed are Ascorbic-acid, Beta-carotene, Calcium, Coumarins, Genistein, Gamma-linolenic-acid, Flavonoids, Hentriacontanol, Magnesium, Niacin, Oleic-acid, Potassium, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Triterpenoid saponins, Thiamin, and Zinc.
The whole plant is used in alternative medicine as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary.
It is also used to relieve constipation, an infusion of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness, and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary.
A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic.

New research indicates it’s use as an effective antihistamine. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can be applied as a medicinal poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.

bum

Chickweed up close and personal

Chickweed-Down and Dirty

This little guy is good for just about everything that ails you.  Find it in your garden or neighborhood. It is everywhere and finding it is kind of a thrill.  It shows you have been paying attention and are learning something. Walking takes on a whole new meaning when you are out there trying to ID plants. I just learned about wood sorrel the other day and now I popping it in my mouth every chance I get.

As usual I have overstepped my bounds here and gone way over the limit. But I have half of next weeks wildcrafting blog already done. It will be on wood sorrel, Pine needles and spring tonic if I have room.

Please pass the prayer for Japan around, thank you and see you next week.
WILDCRAFTING: The CAT’S MEOW A REAL HERO part 4

Wildcrafting: #3 Dandelions, Curly Dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences.

WILDCRAFTING: MUGWORT, (bonus plant Wormwood), YARROW AND RED CLOVER. And a little conversation with God and St. Francis on Lawns.

Wildcrafting

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It only happens once a year, in the Spring and only for a very short time. Spring tonics are the magic elixir Mother Nature puts out there to get the life forces moving.

Spring tonics were what I was going talk about but because of recent events in Japan and the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, http://tinyurl.com/4vpsefn and now the threat of a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Number One nuclear power plant  http://tinyurl.com/6cwtzrg I have decided to talk about something I think is more important.

I am in California, 19.5 miles from Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant and on the wrong side of the San Andres fault. Recent events are very close to home.

CNN just reported another explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Second day the Japanese stock market plummeted.

It has been four days since the earthquake and tsunami hit. There are constant after shocks measuring between 5 and 6. Many areas are isolated and roads impassable. Only 1/2 of the emergency crews have been activated. There is no food left in the stores. There is no way to deliver food.  No one to drive the trucks. No roads to drive on. No one to run the stores. Crops were destroyed. Gas stations can not pump gas. There is no food, water, shelter, energy. This is an unimaginable situation. You can’t imagine it happening here or to you.  Few do but still it happens.

Electricity to Tokyo, about 250 miles away, has been affected because of the shut down of the power plants.  This affects transportation and delivery of goods across Japan.  Some subway station are closed so people can not get to work or make their connections. Rolling black outs are being proposed and another quake predicted for Thursday. Energy or the lack of it effects everything. NEC, Mitsubishi, Sony, suspending operations to save energy. The stock market nose-dived, below 10,000, down 633 points stocks affected insurance, oil, coal,  automakers./ Topix down 68.5

The men, woman and children that made it to a shelter have blankets and they are grateful for that. The weather forecast is temperature in the 30’s and a large snowstorm is due on Wednesday. The shelters are not equipped with food, water, toilet paper, diapers, tampax, toothpaste, band aids, heat, coffee, tea, lights or any of the things we all take for granted every day. People are in shock. Separated from their families not knowing if they are dead or alive, injured. There is no way to communication. ATM’s don’ t work. Anything that needs to be pumped like water and gas has no electricity to run the pumps.  Cell phones don’t work, batteries are dead and there is no electricity to recharge them.

Water line in SundaiThis is a line for water in Sendai

This is a very desperate situation. These people had no warning.  They could not prepare for this. Life changed in an instant and it will never be the same. It is damn bleak. And it could happen here. The ring of fire is real. We are on the Pacific Plate. It is on the move.

This is a warning to us. This is a wake up call. This is as close to the hand of God reaching down and tapping you on the shoulder and saying ” Hey you’re next so be prepared.”

I am going to give you two links to get yourselves started. One is the American Red Cross earthquake to do list. You can buy a kit ready-made or you can put one together yourself.  There are things on this list you would never think of doing yourself. Read and Do it. Now. http://tinyurl.com/l4cjg5.

The second one is an earthquake watch video. This is very matter of fact. It is based on scientific calculations and things we have learned about earthquakes and what to look for. March 14-19 is of particular importance because of some very unique planetary alignments.

If this does not get you attention then I do not know what will. Just understand this. In an emergency there is not going to be anyone to help you. You are on your own. So be prepared. Gas up that car and get a telephone number of someone outside of the State that you can call. Phone lines within the State of the disaster are going to be jammed. Calling out is easier. Leave a message of your status and where you are.  The contact person can pass that information on to everyone that checks in. It is going to be the only way to communicate.

I got a Red Cross radio that runs on solar, batteries, adapter and crank for $50. It also charges cell phones. Do you have a good escape plan? Know what roads to take and what direction to go in in case of  Earthquake, floods, tsunami, emergency shelter? All different.  We may not have any warning either. Who knows. But if all we have is 10, 15 minutes to get to safety, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to grab a bag with a toothbrush, water, toilet paper and beef jerky in it rather than not?  Do yourself a favor people and just do it. And put some seaweed in there too it is loaded with iodine.

I don’ t want to be an alarmist here folks but this is no Y2K. This is something quite different. Facts are: 9.0 earthquake is a biggie and we have had 4 of them since 1952. It did knock the earth 6.5 inches off its axis. Our electromagnetic field is the lowest it has been since the last earth changing events occurred. Things are happening. Pay attention.

It is going to take time to get stuff organized. Don’t wait. And don’t be Stupid like this guy and ask

God’s Help!

There once was a flood and everyone had reached safety except for one man.

He climbed to the top of his house with the water lapping at his feet.

A helicopter flew over his head and hung down a rope for him to climb, but the man was deeply religious and said, “It’s alright! The Lord will save me!”

So the helicopter flew away. The water continued to rise and a boat came to him but, once again, the man shouted, “No! Go AWAY! the Lord will come and save me!” and, once again, the boat sped off.

The water was getting dangerously deep by now so the helicopter came back and, on cue, the man repeated, “I don’t need saving! My Lord will come”

Reluctantly, the helicopter left.

The rain continued to pour, the water continued to rise and the man drowned.

At the gates of heaven, the man met St. Peter. Confused, he asked, “Peter, I have lived the life of a faithful man – why did my Lord not rescue me?”

St. Peter replied, “For pity sake! He sent you two helicopters and a boat!”

Author Unknown

I look forward to writing the next blog on Spring tonics and Wildcrafting #5.

I love you dear readers now get busy and be safe please.


 

 

 

 

 

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This is a Cattail

A Cattail is regarded as one of the Fantastic 4.  One of 4 plants that could save your life. Know what the other three are? Here are the parts of the Cattail that we are going to be talking about starting with the roots and rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground stems. They turn into the shoots, stalks, seed heads with Male and Female parts and are all edible. There can be little corms at the base of the rhizome which are just young shoots. These are particularly tasty and can be eaten raw or cooked after the outer peel is removed.

From the rhizomes you get flour, starch, and sugar syrup. Edible anytime of the year, needs to be cooked or roasted and tough outer layer  removed to get to the soft, inner core.

A simple way to eat cattail rhizome in the field is to bury it for about five minutes in a bed of hot coals and then chew the sticky starch out of the outer rhizome and the strings that run through the center.

Next, the young stalks can be eaten raw or cooked after the outer leaf blades are peeled off like a leek. Here is where the rule of thumb saying came from. To get to the soft inner core you push on the stalk with your thumb and it separates the core from the stalk. Very nutritious. Taste like asparagus. Tends to be a little dry when cooked.  Butter or olive oil will fix that right up. The shoots provide beta carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.

Everybody knows what a cattail looks like.  There is hardly a marsh, wetlands, or body of water, brackish or fresh, that does not play host to this hotdog-on-a-stick-looking plant.

If you only know Cattails from leafing through House Beautiful showing Cattail arrangements to grace a mantle or come eye to eye with them

confounding an ancient looking urn juggernauted on an endcap at Bed, Bath and Beyond

♪ Da DA ♪
♪ Da DA ♪

then I am going to tell you things about this plant you never knew and it may just blow your mind.

First, the bleeding obvious

Cattails, Typha latifolia, is a grass from the Gramineae family chiefly herbaceous but some woody plants including  bamboo; reeds, tules, bulrushes, sugar cane and cereals like wheat, oat, barley, rice, & rye. Difference here is that every part of the cattail, not just the seeds heads,  is usable.  Plant boasts eight food products, three medicinals, and at least 12 other functional uses.

Cattails are a 4 season plant which means you don’t have to wait for the right time of year to harvest it. It is always ready with something that is useful. So, lets start with spring Cattails and work through all the seasons. Easiest way to find Cattails is to go where you see last years stalks standing.  If you are starting from scratch then remember the look-a-like rule?   Cattails have 2

Look-A-Likes, oh my

One is an Iris which is poison and the other is the Calamus which is not. Let’s talk Iris first. Spring is the only time of year when there can be some confusion and for a very short period. Everything is green in spring and about the same size starting out. Iris and members of the Iris family only reach about 2 feet in height. Cattail’s get up to 8 feet and will tower over the Iris in very short order.  Just to be safe know your look-a-likes.

Iris
Iris

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) and Yellow Flag (Iris pseudoacorus) and other members of the iris family all possess the cattail-like leaves. All members of the Iris family are poisonous.  Upon close inspection however, there is a very obvious difference. If you follow the  leaves which are flat and smooth with no ribbing to the flat fan arrangement at the base of the plant you have an iris. Cattails leaves have a midrib which form around a stalk and  they do not fan out. Iris’ are not edible but the roots are used as a fixative in dyeing materials.

The other look-alike which is not poisonous, but whose leaves look more like cattail than iris is the Sweet Flag or Calamus. (Acorus calumus).

Sweet Flag-Spring Cattail look-a-like.

Sweet Flag- Cattail look-a-like.

The leaves on a Sweet Flag are wavy and have parallel venation with a midrib. It has a seed pod growing out of the side of the stock.  Cattail seed pods are ALWAYS at the top of the stem. Sometimes the margins on the Sweet Flag are red. Cattail leaf margins are never red or wavy. The legendary Japanese sword Kusanagi got its name from the Calamus.  In some east Indian and Chinese cultures the roots of the Sweet Flag have many medicinal uses. Our American Indians used it quite extensively. So, if you find a Calamus make a note you may want to go back later.  If you are in doubt if the plant is a Cattail or a Calamus just bruise the leaf.  If it  has the sweet, spicy aroma it is a Sweet Flag. Cattails, if anything, smells like grass.

Second, a little less obvious

So, now you have a positive Cattail ID. It’s Spring. Now what? Make sure the water where the Cattails are growing is safe. No runoff, factories around, dumping, or contaminants in the water. Cattails are a super filtering systems. They will take up the pollutants, heavy metals, chemicals, and clean up the water.  However, all those chemicals and pollutants are now concentrated in the plant. If you eat from a plant in a polluted area you will be getting all the contaminates that plant took out of the water. So make sure your Cattails have a good clean water source.

In the spring the first thing you can harvest is the new shoots sometime called Cossack asparagus. You harvest it by running  your hands down the stalk to the base and pull. It pops off the rhizome and doesn’t hurt the plant at all. Peel all the outer leaves off until you get to the core

Peeled Cattail shoot
Peeled Cattail shoot

Cut the top tough part off. That is just immature leaf formation and the leaves are actually the only part you don’t eat. Leaves are used to make mats, shoes, hats, baskets very sturdy stuff if you know how to do it.  And if you burn the leaves and make an ash and apply it to cuts it will stop the bleeding. There is a mucilaginous gel between the leaf layers. Save this gel if you can.  It is used as a thickener in soups or spread it all over your body. It is an antiseptic.

A little later in the season but before the summer solstice the stalks will start to bulge out in spots. This is the seed head forming in the stalk. It’s edible.

Peel the covering away. The green flower heads can be steamed and eaten like corn-on-the-cob. Dip in butter. There is a core just like corn don’t eat that.

a steamed cattails

a steamed cattails

By mid-summer the yellow pollen will be falling from the spike atop the flower heads, and can be shaken into a paper bag to use in thickening soups or even mixed with flour for making bread or cattail pancakes.


The “fluff” of the mature flower heads was once used to stuff life jackets, and is still perfect as an emergency insulation. If you are lost and without sufficient clothing, you can fill your jacket with it. Use it to make a warm mattress as well with very tight weaved material so the fluff does not escape. Stuff it in your shoes to keep your feet warm. Keep the fluff contained.

Cattail flower head fluff is also very flammable. Break open a mature flower head (available almost any time of the year) and make a pile of it. Then strike a match to it, or even a good spark, and it will burst into flame. The tight heads are often dry inside even after a heavy rain, making this a great survival tinder.

Cattail Down
Cattail Down

There you have it. The Cats out of the bag now.  A real lifesaver in more ways than one.  My Hero.

Part 1 Wildcrafting: A Beginner’s Guild

Part 2 Wildcrafting: Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow, and Red Clover

Part 3 Wildcrafting Dandelions, Curly dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences

Part 4: Wildcrafting: The CAT’S MEOW A  REAL LIFESAVER

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Find it – Dandelion – Id it

http://www.kathypickles.co.uk/gallery/index.htm

Taraxacum officinale

Know it

The name dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning lions tooth which refers to the shape of the leaves. Dandelions are  little power houses.  You can use all parts, flowers, leaves, roots even the seed heads, which automatically prompts you to make a wish.  Also, ever notice that there are no dandelion puffs right before a rain? They all drop off so they are ready for a good drenching when the rain arrives.  This gets them a head start on reseeding themselves.  Leaves taste best when they are young. Like some older people I know they get bitter as they get older.  So leave them alone. However, in the fall after a hard frost the bitterness is dispersed and you can enjoy them once again. I wish this worked the same way on people.

The white stuff in the leaves and stems is natural latex.  In a pinch it will re-stick that stamp you pulled off and saved because it didn’t get cancelled by the Post Office.  It works.

One ounce of the fresh leaf  contains large amounts of  Vit A, calcium, sodium, potassium, and trace elements. The root of the plant is the part most often used for healing purposes. It is a blood cleanser. Good for cleansing the liver, kidney and gall bladder.  Collected in either the spring or fall, fresh dandelion roots can be peeled parboiled and sautéed to be served as a tasty vegetable.

Many European herbalist regard dandelion as one of the best herbs for building the blood and curing anemic conditions. I grab a leaf and pop it in my mouth when I am watering it.  It’s all good.

Because of the dandelion and its yellow flower that we see so often I am adding a feature so we can preserve the flowers for later. The new feature making Flower essences. It is very easy  to do,  packs a wallop medicinally and can be used with any flowers.  So, here is more about the dandelion and a feature on how to make flower essence.

dandelion

http://www.learningherbs.com/dandelion_coffee.html

That Learning Herbs  site above  is a very interesting site on wildcrafting.  It also offered a wildcrafting game for kids ages 4-adult that I had to have. It arrived yesterday. It is very clever. I particularly like the cooperation aspect of the game  (Nothing like monopoly, which I always hated). The idea is to  get to the huckleberry patch, pick 2 pails of huckleberries and then back to grandma’s before dark.  You have trouble along the way, scraped knees, bee sting, etc and the plants with pictures explaining which ones to use for the trouble.   What is really cool is you can share the plants you have collected, help players that are falling behind by picking berries for them or giving them your turn.  You win when everyone arrives safely back to grandma’s house.  It can be played in conjunction with an online webpage that enhances the story and details on the other plants on the board. I learned some stuff I didn’t know and that is always fun.  This is not a Milton Bradley production. This s a Family operation and it is very unique. Guess what the grand kids are getting for Christmas?

Flower Essences

You just have to try this. I have bought Bach’s flower essences before, Major (my puppy dog) and I are partial to Rescue Remedy. Couple drops under the tongue calms everything down, but they are  expensive, $11.95 for .25 ounce. I didn’t have a lot of dandelions so I used what I had, red clover, yarrow, honeysuckle violets and  borage.  Instructions said do flowers separately. As you can see I don’t always follow the directions. I put everything into one bowl.

Bowl of Flowers for essence

I am going to give you a quick rundown of what I did and then you check out the link below for more details.

Flower essence recipe: http://www.thedance.com/herbs/flhow.htm

  • Collect just the flower parts. Try not to touch the flowers. It’s an energy thing I think
  • Arrange them face up in a bowl of spring or filtered water
  • Put them in the sun for about 4 hours. Keep bugs out. Again, you don’t want any bug energy in this.
  • Remove flowers by straining into a clean bowl.
  • Put equal parts of brandy and the flower water into a dark glass container and cap it. Mix the contents by hitting the container sharply with the ball of your hand  30 times. ( I don’t have any idea why you do this 30 times. I did it because it sounded like there might be a curse attached if I didn’t.  I did it 30 times) Also, I didn’t have any brandy so I used Cherry Herring. After I did that I went to find out if it would still work with a liqueur. Silly me.  I learned that the difference between the  brandy which is  60 proof and Cherry Herring which is about 40-45 proof, oh and the taste, might be the reason for using the higher proofed brandy.  All I know is I sure like the taste of Cherry Herring better than Brandy but next time I will do Brandy. I think any distilled alcohol will do.
  • In essence you are done.  You have just made a tincture.  This is the mother. There are several other steps you do to extend the tincture but I ran out of Cherry Herring so I couldn’t do the next step.  Oh darn. I need to buy more Cherry Herring. There are many herbal remedies that call for tinctures. There is a lot of power in those little flowers and the power of the sun pulls it out and deposits it in the water. You now have the power. It’s Magic.  Go for it.

Find it – Curly Dock – Wild Yellow Dock – ID it

Know it

Curly dock in the fall

Curly dock is easy to spot in the late summer or early fall. It’s tall red seed stock is a head turner in open fields. Related to Buckwheat and rhubarb. The seeds are a great deep yellow dye source.  You use the root at this stage.  Dock root has a reputation among herbalists as an effective tonic and cleanser for the whole system.  They use it to  strengthen the circulatory system, the blood, liver, kidneys, and bladder. Dock has been identified  as a laxative. A tea made from the root of the plant is famous in Chinese medicine as a treatment for chronic constipation.  Good to know if you are on Vicodin. You don’t boil dock like other roots, you steep it. Place a teaspoon of chopped up dock in a cup and pour boiling water over it to the very top.   Cover it and let it steep for 30 minutes. Drain, reheat and drink.

Top pic is Curly dock in the fall.  The pic bottom left is curly dock in the middle of summer.  It’s a perennial so you could use the root at this point. Don’t eat the leaves now too bitter. Pic bottom right is Spring dock. Eat the leaves now. Nice lemony taste.

Curly dock mid summer

Curly dock in the spring

Here is more information on what to do with dock.  http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/cook/RUMEX_CRISPUS.htm

 Find it – Jewelweed – ID it

Know it

Jewel weed Impatiens species

This is a good one to find especially when you are out wildcrafting and come in contact with Poison Ivy/Oak. I just recently found this plant for the first time while I was collecting spring water.  There was poison oak everywhere and  right next to the poison oak was this little flower that looked like a baby orchid. I picked it and took it home to id it  and it was jewelweed.  The indians say that a cure is within arms reach.  I can attest to the power of this little plant.  Cassie gets poison oak really bad. We have tried a lot of things to relieve the itching. Jewelweed  is one of the best topical applications we found that really helped. Here is a video that gives a good closeup of the plant.

and here is a more detailed explanation of Jewelweed.

http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Jewelweed.html

Wow, I am over my limit again. There is just so much to talk about.  More wildcrafting next week.

Wildcrafting part 1 Getting Started

Wildcrafting part 2 Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow and Red Clover And a conversation with God and St. Francis.

Wildcrafting part 4: The CAT’S MEOW A LIFESAVING PLANT

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Wildcrafting #1: Starter guide

Introduction

Wildcrafting is the ancient art of taking care of yourself by taking care of Mother Nature.  A tried and true method of not only survival and sustainability, but also a way of promoting abundance, diversity and showing gratitude to dear old MOM who is always looking to shower us with blessings. It is a way of collecting  seeds, nuts, plants, roots, flowers from the wild. Before there was processed food and drive thru, before refrigerators or farms or agri business, before the neanderthal or the missing link there was wildcrafting.   Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it ( Cole Porter lyrics ) Let’s do it… Let’s wildcraft.

For starters understand the principal. Mother Nature provides us with everything we need to survive. There is quite an etiquette that goes with wildcrafting.  A whole bunch of rules that are spelled out for people who have lost all touch and connection with their roots. What once was obvious natural behavior practiced by indigenous people whose life depended on knowing the rules has become a lost art.  Here are the rules. http://home.klis.com/~chebogue/p.conWild.html Read them and understand them before you head out into the wild blue yonder.

For now just apply good common sense.

  • Positive ID of the plant a must.
  • Stay away from roadside plants that are contaminated with pollutants, polluted water and industrial areas.
  • Leave a place better than you found it best if there is no trace of your ever being there.
  • Always leave something so the next generation can produce and multiply.
  • Always thank Mother Nature and the plant for their gift.
  • Only take what you need.

When you have graduated to the next step you will need to check with local authorities and see what plants require a picking permit. Some herbs like the fiddle fern and Echinacea are protected. Some areas are protected. Check to make sure. You don’t want to be picking protected plants in restricted areas.   In the mean time, Trust me. Mom has a lot of goodies up her sleeve and there usually is an abundance of what you need and can use within arms reach.  So let’s get started in our own backyard and neighborhood.

Clean pickings is important. No pesticides, herbicides, snail, or rat poison, or roundup around. If you don’t know, leave it alone.  Getting a positive ID is critical. Know your plants. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of mimicking herself.  This is especially true in the mushroom department. So we are not going to do mushrooms here. You need an expert in this area. One mushroom with an ever so slight variation hardly visible to the human eye can be the deadly mimic to the edible variety.

An entire group of Maidu Indians died from collecting mushrooms from their usual foraging spot. The mushrooms had been contaminated with a wild spore that they had no way of knowing had settled on the mushrooms.  This put me off of  hunting mushrooms on my own.

Wild carrots, fennel and  poisonous hemlock have exactly the same flower arrangement the only difference is hemlock has a spotted hollow stem. We are going to start you off wildcrafting in familiar surroundings. This will teach you how to look for plants, see plants, and learn about their secret life.

Here is a picture of my front yard.

5’x10′ garden

It is 5‘x10’ and has over 100 wild herbs. spices, domestic and foreign. Can you find the yarrow, spearmint, ginger, horseradish, mustard, burdock, motherwort, vervain, ephedrine, fennel, wild radish, red clover, wooly mullein, scarlet pimpernel, dandelion, mugwort, violets, sage, comfrey, jasamine, rose hips, lavender, rosemary, honeysuckle, aloe, millet, onions, nasturtiums, plantain, borage, thyme, yellow sulfur plant, knot weed, curly dock, geraniums, apple, lemon, apricots, guava, cherry, bamboo, cattail and I still have not found a good use for crab grass but it’s there. I can promise you this wildcrafting can become an obsession.

I will do three plants per blog. Lets start with the common scarlet pimpernel. This is a little darling. So many uses. Find it.

ID it.

Know it.

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pimper33.html

Next. Salsify.

When I first saw this in the wild I thought I had found a new source of gold. This huge over sized dandelion looking seed pod shimmered like spun gold in the sunlight.  The wildflower book describes the color as brown but I am telling you it is gold. It grows wild. Brought some seeds home and it grew. The root looks like a carrot and taste like  an oyster.  Leaves are eatable. Taste best if harvested before it flowers.  Find it.

ID it.

Know it

Here is how you pronounce it and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlUVTPokwh4

http://www.foodreference.com/html/artsalsify.html

And lastly

Plantain (not the banana) Another one of those hidden treasures with secret powers.  There is broad leaf and English plantain. Picture is English variety. The parallel venation is a dead give away. The Indians chewed a leaf (saliva is the secret ingredient) mixed it with sap from the pine tree applied to splinters, etc. foreign objects needing to be removed, and within 24 hours the object was drawn out. Find it.

ID it

Know it

http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/placom43.html

(Note: I endorse these links because I like them. They are not advertisements, and I get no kickbacks. That’s nice huh?)

More next week

Part 2 Wildcrafting: Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow, and Red Clover

Part 3 Wildcrafting Dandelions, Curly dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences

Part 4: Wildcrafting: The CAT’S MEOW A LIFESAVING PLANT

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I smell gas

I have been smelling gas in the house.  Not all the time just occasionally and just faintly.  No it’s not Major. Or the cabbage. I was not really worried but it was annoying.  I decided to call the gas company and have them check for leaks. I needed the telephone number to call.  I thought it would be on the bill. Couldn’t find the bill just had the receipt marked paid. The receipt did not have the telephone number on it. All the utilities are in Cassie’s name. I just give her some money and then she pays them usually online. We don’t have contact information anywhere for stuff she pays online. Just so happens though we pay the gas bill in person because it is local.

I found a bill that said PG&E.  Pacific Gas and Electric. Cassie said that’s not the gas bill. Really? What is it?  That’s the electric bill. Of course it is, how silly of me. O.k. I said what is the gas company called? We had to find the receipt to found out that the  name of the gas company is The Gas Company.  Brilliant.  I think that’s weird but still looking for a telephone number.  Got the phone book out. Looked in the business section for Gas Company. Nothing. Looked under county and city of San Luis for Gas Company. Nothing. Looked in the yellow pages under utilities. Nothing. What the hell?  Why can’t I find the telephone for the Gas Company? And there you have it.  It was listed under T for The not under G for Gas.

O.K. that is just wrong. You always dropped the The and the A in a company’s name when you listed it in the phone book. Oh well, I will just let them know when I get in touch with them that there number was hard to find and should be listed under  G not T in the phone book and  the part you keep for your records, not the part you throw away should have the contact numbers on it.

Anyway, called and went through a 20 question and answer menu before I talked to a real person to explain it was not an emergency but did need to make an appointment to have the gas checked for leaks. It was 3pm. The appointment was made for between 3 and 8pm that day. Would I be home?  Sure. I waited until 7pm and Major had to go for a run.  It was misting lightly outside so I put my raincoat on got his leash on him and knock, knock the gas (wo)man is here. I wish I would  have done that 2 hours ago.

What a dirty trick.  Major was all primed and ready to go and holding it since noon and now it’s a no go. He is not happy.

Tied him up to a tree

so if he had to pee he could and then I headed inside.  He barked just to let me know he was getting a little wet, he wanted his run and I was now on his shit list.

Inside the little meter they use to detect a gas leak is going a mile a minute. Yikes. Maybe it was worst then I thought. I was thinking brain damage from escaped gas.  She assured me it was not that bad. It was beeping in the whole area behind the stove where all the connections are. Had to pull it away from the wall.  It would take both of us to pull it out.

I was giving her a hand pulling it when there was a rapid loud knock on the door. Who could that be?  Went over to see and just caught a glimpse of my crazy neighbor shutting and locking her door.  I can only guess that Major’s occasional bark was ticking her off so this was her way of getting even. Bang on my door. What a fruitcake. There was enough time for Major to pee if he was desperate so I brought him inside, more for safety from the crazy neighbor then anything else.

A lot of gas had concentrated behind the stove and this made zeroing in on the leak a little harder.  One connection that was enclosed in a screwed on box on the back needed an allen wrench to check it out.  Lucky, I had an allen wrench. Doesn’t every one?  When she put the detector on the connection the lights were going off as well as beeps.  She turned off the gas to the stove. She loosened the nut that was leaking put some oil on it and tighten it down.  I learned that you put oil on fitted pipes and tape on unfitted pipes. The reason is the oil allows a little extra purchase area on the threads so you can tighten it down more and that seals it off.  Tape would not have done anything. Good to know. I love learning stuff.

Retrieved a nutmeg grate and a pair of tongs that had fallen behind the stove before we pushed it back. Major only had to wait about an hour for his run and boy did he have to go.

Now the moral of this little story is if it was an emergency gas leak call 911.  Second I dare you to find your contact number on your bill right now. When you find it post it on the frig or wherever you keep important info. I put the number in my cell phone under G. Your gas company is listed under Y in the telephone book.

Then after you find the number I want you to go outside and find the shut off valve on the gas meter. You really need to know were this is in case there is an earthquake or something shakes the pipes or connections lose and you have a BIG gas leak.  You need to know how to shut the gas off at the source. In a major catastrophe 911 will not be able to help everyone at the same time. Take a vice grip or an adjustable wrench with you and leave it there.  Attach it to the meter with a string or something so it doesn’t get lost.

Find the valve and give it a quarter turn to the right. That shuts off the gas flow.

Gas turn off valve.

Here is a cool site that explains everything you need to know. http://tinyurl.com/2b2nrm9
Red Cross course in emergency preparedness advises you to only turn the gas off if there is a strong gas smell or sound of gas escaping.

My meter is over behind the crazy neighbor’s house so I am not leaving my wrench there. Instead I have it sitting in a toolbox right outside the back door.  Also, when I see the two new neighbor kids that live in back I am going to show them how to turn the gas off.  It’s a good thing to know and that means pass it on.

1)    So, today you found and posted the contact number for your gas company.

2)   Found your gas meter and attached a wench or vice grips to it.

3)   Learned I have a fruitcake neighbor and a dog that has great bladder control.

Ah life is good .

I have more crazy neighbor stories.

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Ring-a-ling, Ring-a- ling, Hello?

Just Pick up the phone and dial the number. Send that email. Just do it.  The rest will  happen. Had my 3-way conference call Friday with Shannon Biggs co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots. Shannon Biggs directs the Local Economy project at Global Exchange. As a former senior staffer at the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) she wrote for and edited IFG publications, and was a lecturer on International Relations at San Francisco State University. She holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics in economics, empire and post-colonialism.

Building the Green Economy shows how community groups, families, and individual citizens have taken action to protect their food and water, clean up their neighborhoods, and strengthen their local economies. Their unlikely victories—over polluters, unresponsive bureaucracies, and unexamined routines—dramatize the opportunities and challenges facing the local green economy movement.

Drawing on their extensive experience at Global Exchange and elsewhere, the authors also:

* Lay out strategies for a more successful green movement

Describe how communities have protected their victories from legal and political challenges

Provide key resources for local activists

Ben Price, Projects Director for Community Environmental Defense Fund.  Ben leads organizing across Pennsylvania where over 100 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted laws. Mission Statement:

“Building sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.”

“We believe that we are in the midst of an escalating ecological crisis, and that the crisis is the result of decisions made by a relatively few people who run corporations and government. We believe that sustainability will never be achieved by leaving those decisions in the hands of a few – both because of their belief in limitless economic production and because their decisions are made at a distance from the communities experiencing the impact of those decisions. Therefore, we believe that to attain sustainability, a right to local self-government must be asserted that places decisions affecting communities in the hands of those closest to the impacts. That right to local self-government must enable communities to reject unsustainable economic and environmental policies set by state and federal governments, and must enable communities to construct legal frameworks for charting a future towards sustainable energy production, sustainable land development, and sustainable water use, among others. In doing so, communities must challenge and overturn legal doctrines that have been concocted to eliminate their right to self-government, including the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights, preemption, and limitations on local legislative authority. Inseparable from the right to local self-government – and its sole limitation – are the rights of human and natural communities; they are the implicit and enumerated premises on which local self-government must be built.”

Me: I am just an ordinary person in an ordinary community that has for the past 10 years or so been fostering a growing disdain and dislike for GMO’s and their intrusive, invasive, insidious presence in our food chain. As far as I know I am the only person who feels this way. All that is about to change.

I have spearheaded petition drives, writing and calling campaigns, to our State and Federal government to get GMO’s labeled. These were national campaigns. Zero results. Apparently, State and Fed officials have their own agenda. Imagine my surprise. Lesson learned.

Time for a change. After 10 years I get it.

I want results. My son was reading Growing a Green Economy. “Read this.” He said. O.K. I said. Couldn’t put it down. This is a story about changing the way you do things and getting results. It is empowering. It hit a nerve.

Once our Supreme court decided to give Monsanto, AT&T, Blackwater, Walmart, Chevron, Freddie Mac, Wall Street and other such corporations personhood status I got a little worried.

That’s when I contacted Ben and he contacted Shannon and here we are having this three-way conversation.   Shannon asked me questions. Are there GMO’s grown in your community? What do the local farmers think of GMO’s? What does the community think about GMO’s?  Heck, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions.

So. “Let’s have a meet’ng” with the local farmers, and community members that have a vested  interest in a green economy and community and find out what they think and what they need.  O.k. I said. O.k. Shannon said, Ben said, fine.

Shannon said she will come and speak to the group.  Cover her gas money and a place to stay and she will come and talk.  Wow. That’s generous. And that was that. I said I will work on getting the group together and keep in touch by email.  She is off to Bolivia  this week I believe working on a rice project.

So, that is how the conversation went. I knew nothing going in and learned a lot. Maybe labeling GMO’s is not the way to go. Maybe, banning the production of GMO’s in this community is something we need to look at. I really am not sure where all this is going but I do know the worst of it is over.  Getting started is the hardest part.

I have a list of people I am going to contact to get feedback and organizational help from. I am going to contact Melanie Blankenship of Nature’s Touch, Bob Banner of Hope Dance, Elizabeth Johnson of our little seed exchange group, Farmer Bill of Windrose Farms, Hunter Francis, Eric V. pres of a new group of local farmers called CCAN, Kevin Stephen of Huasna Valley Farm and Linnaea and Peter of STEYNBERG gallery.

I am in very good company here.   I just contacted Melanie and asked her advise on the idea. We met once. I don’t know if she even really knows who I am. She does a local talk radio show every Saturday.   I will wait for an answer. This is how things get started. We are off and running.   Thank you both, Shannon and Ben,  for your time. Bye for now.

This is good.  Made the call, got started and nobody died.

p.s.  This just in 04/15/10

Bayer admits GMO contamination is out of Control. ( and yes this is the same company that makes the baby aspirin.)

http://www.naturalnews.com/028585_GMOs_Bayer.html

04/19/10

Mainstream Scientists Finally Admit that GMOs are Environmentally Destructive

By Keith Good, ed.
FarmPolicy.com, April 14, 2010
Straight to the Source

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_20631.cfm

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