Monday, January 31, 2011

Raindrops on Roses, Whiskers on Kittens...

Yes, I've been climbing out of a pit of discouragement for the past couple of days.  In the wake of the news about the big-money organic companies, Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield Farms and organic Valley, and their public statement that they will no longer fight the use of Monsanto's round-up ready alfalfa being mass-used across the nation, I have had to do a lot of attitude-lifting.  All this can seem so overwhelming.  Money talks.  There is a thorough account of the situation here. And also, as I have just seen written today an article by the CEO of Stonyfield in the Huffington Post.  How did I miss the USDA agreeing last November to the widespread use of this alfalfa?  (I am still stinging from the fact that this slipped by me without even one single e-mail to the government!)  According to the CEO of Stonybrook, they fought for an outright ban on the GE crops until the USDA removed outright ban as an option and were forced to choose between "co-existence" and deregulation.  Who knows what's really happening.

Unfortunately, even concentrating on the lovely parts of life aren't distracting me from my despair.  However, (and this is a huge however!) there are still things we can do.  Here is my list:

Shop at local stores, green markets, join a CSA (Link to JustFood) (link to localharvest).

If it does turn out that Whole Foods, Stonyfield and Organic Valley have acted in the interest of their bank accounts.  Boycotting Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield and Organic Valley immediately. (I already get my milk from a local farmer and I don't really shop at Whole Foods at all because I'd rather support my local tiny shop which carries organics...but I do get my butter from Organic Valley...I'll need to find a local butter pronto and it will hurt my pocketbook because Ronnybrook's butter costs a lot more.)

Writing a letter to the CEO of Whole Foods Market.  Here is a link to John Mackey's blog.

This is all I can come up with at the moment.  I'll be adding to this list as time goes on.

Let your money speak, even if you are on a tight budget, it is perhaps worth it to forego a larger amount of a product and buy a local variety?  (I'm obviously thinking of my butter at the moment, but perhaps I need to just use a little less.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Very Important article from Gail Faith Edwards

Here is an article (link to her blog) written by Gail Faith Edwards of Blessed Maine Herbs, which I am respectfully  and with permission, quoting as my post today.  I have tried to write the heart of her message in my own words, but all of it is coming out much too dilute for the message she is bringing.   If you have never read her book "Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs" or have never listened to her speak, I highly recommend you look into it.  Her love of plants and their healing abilities is tender, deep, and is beautifully conveyed through her voice.  You can listen to her podcasts on her Blessed Maine Herbs website here.
It’s November and most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. All of nature is saying it’s time to let go of what you’ve been holding on to. So, I am working on letting go of my worries. At least for now.
I’ve been worried a lot lately. Worried about the earth. Not the earth in the great, big, wide, global sense, but earth in the heart-achingly local sense; as in the woods and fields right here in Maine where I live. This particular bioregion – my little corner of the world.
It’s the woods, and in particular, the delicate woodland plants that inhabit our woods, that I’m particularly concerned about. They are under enormous pressure. Their habitats are shrinking daily. We’ve got logging operations here in Central and Northern Maine like you wouldn’t believe. If you stand on Route 201 or any other major thoroughfare in Maine for just one hour, you’ll see truck after over-laden truck filled with spruce, fir, pine and birch logs cut from our forests rolling by in a never-ending stream.
Our woodland ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate. As the dead bodies of trees are dragged, one by one out of our forests, they are raking up precious soil and uprooting delicate woodland plants and scraping them all indiscriminately out of the forest floor. We’re destroying amazingly fragile ecosystems in a few hours that took eons to create. This is happening every day and has been going on for many, many years.
As if that wasn’t threat enough, we’ve now got overly enthusiastic aspiring herbalists all over the place, eager to show off what they know about little known plants, writing and talking up the delicate woodland medicinals in our forests as if they were in a candy shop raving about tootsie rolls and lollipops. No wonder I’m worried!
Oh, I know, if you’ve just arrived here from somewhere like Kansas or New Mexico, it looks like we have plenty of trees. Trees are everywhere. But if you’ve been here for thirty five years, or a life-time, and have been aware of the constant procession of those logging trucks rolling through at a steady clip for the entire time, you’d be as convinced as I am that there is a silent disaster going on all around us.
Ever hear of the beauty strip? That’s a 20 foot wide swath of trees left along the roadside so that you, the uninitiated, will think those trees go on forever. They don’t. In fact, in many places now, they only go on for about as far as your eyes can see, literally.
What trees we do have here in Maine are young. Many are planted in monocultures, single species tree plantations managed by the paper companies. Most, if not all, of our old growth forests are long gone. And with them the mycorrhizal networks that extended beneath tree and woodland plant roots for hundreds if not thousands of acres, creating a network of nourishment upon which all life depends and sustaining the rich diversity and ecological balance that is also, unfortunately, long gone.

As a practicing Community Herbalist who’s been serving my rural Maine neighbors for the past thirty plus years, I’ve done my fair share of wildgathering all around this area. But I’m proud to say that you would never know I’ve even been here to take a look around. The wild stands I’ve been quietly managing for decades have grown and spread and flourished. But then, the plants that I’ve been gathering have been the wild plants of the open fields, mountain meadows and woods edges. Abundant plants like red clover blossoms and yarrow, St. John’s wort, red raspberry, self heal and plantain, dandelion and yellow dock. Potent healers, all.
Sure, there are lots of medicinal plants in the woodlands here. In our cedar grove there are expanding stands of Smilacina racemesa, False Solomon’s seal, and Veronica, a common creeping woodland medicinal that is dear to my heart, also referred to as Speedwell. Along the stream we find bunches of Gaultheria procumbens, known as wintergreen or tea berry, and Coptis trifolia, commonly called goldthread or canker plant.
And we’ve planted Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh; Panax quinquefolius, American ginseng; Hydrastis Canadensis, goldenseal and Sanguinaria canadensis or bloodroot here.
But these wondrous woodland plants are the plants I tend to sit and learn from, meditate with, employ as teaching tools and use exceedingly sparingly, if ever. In my humble opinion, this is the only ethical and respectful course of action when it comes to our woodland medicinals. I think the same kind of “hands off” policy is called for regarding teaching and writing about these plants as well. Turn off the spotlights, please!
It has been my strict policy over the years to avoid bringing undue attention to our precious woodland medicinals, other than to point them out on an herb walk, discuss their medicinal benefits as well as the challenges they face for survival, and suggest other plants that may have similar properties and actions.
Why write exciting and enticing essays about the stunning medicinal uses of delicate woodland plants that are not commercially grown and available? Plants that we desperately need to survive and do not want to see disappear? Why focus attention on these forest medicines when there are so many others to write and talk about? And why, in the name of the blessed earth, lead the ever-growing numbers of people who are interested in herbs to such delicate, fragile ecosystems and plants? It just doesn’t make sense. In fact, doing so is just how the procession begins; it ends with the same sad ending we’ve seen over and over again; the decline of one precious, irreplaceable plant after the other.
Just think about what happened to American ginseng, once abundant, plentiful and easily found in forests throughout the Northeast down into Appalachia. Then the word got out. Try to find a wild ginseng root now…it’s a very hard thing to do. The ginseng we have growing in our woods has been deliberately planted there and is being carefully protected. Once in a while, I dig a root or two for medicine. The rest remain to nourish the forest floor, the other plants nearby and to spread eventually, so that at least our little woodland areas will once again be plentiful in this amazing healing plant. But what about all the other plants and forest fungi?
Suddenly there’s a flurry of interest in medicinal mushrooms. People are out in the woods hunting for Chaga and Ganodermas, birch Polypores and Reishi, and they are finding them. And gleefully harvesting all that they find. But where will the spores come for next years fruiting bodies if we take all we find this year?
Here’s the thing: Delicate woodland plants like Coptis trifolia and fungi like Piptoporus betulinus (birch polypores) may not currently be listed on Maine’s endangered or threatened lists, but why wait for that to happen? We already know that the places where these abundant woodland medicinals grow are shrinking daily. If there are 5 polypores going up a birch trunk, will you need all five or will just one suffice? If you find a beautiful, lush, abundant stand of Coptis in the woods somewhere, ask yourself, do I really need to dig any of it up? Maybe you could use a bit of oak bark or witch hazel instead.
Wouldn’t it be better to just sit, learn from and admire the plant, absorb the beauty and the medicine energetically? To go home knowing you defended the right of this sweet woodland medicine to continue to thrive, completely undisturbed? Now that is good medicine!

If you’re an herbalist or wildgatherer in the state of Maine you have a responsibility to our Maine ecosystems. This is true wherever you are. You have a sacred trust to protect our lands and the life forms that inhabit it. Please realize the power you hold in your hand, in your pen, in your voice. Please don’t misuse it, thinking these plants are abundant because you’ve happened upon a particularly lush growth. Please don’t be fooled into thinking these plants are not threatened or endangered because they are not listed on official lists. ALL our woodland medicinals are threatened here in Maine. All of them, bar none.
Soon a soft protective layer of snow will fall and the woodland plants will be safely tucked beneath it for the winter months. I’ll rest a little easier then. And my worries for the earth will perhaps become dormant too, like the plant roots, only to rise up with fresh new growth again next spring when life begins to stir anew. For some worries can be appreciated as valuable messages from the wild heart of the earth herself. They are calls to action and must be revisited time and time again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack Lalanne so many years ago - Thank you Jack for daring to be different.

Did you know Jack Lalane opened a gym when he was 15 years old?  He was so very ahead of his time but his messages presented so long ago still have relevance today.  The thing that gives me hope though, is that today, more than when he first went live with his ideas, more people think like him.  He was the pebble than began a ripple that inspired the lake of our consciousness.  

I remember my grandmother, in front of her faux wood television set on a wheelie rack, doing her exercises while watching his show!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sub Freezing Athletics

Okay, so it was freezing, and the Tundra wind was slicing through everything with its ice knives. Outside wasn't going to happen.  Both of us were climbing up the walls.  The 10 year old-literally, me figuratively.   The rules were these, "No jumping on the furniture and no running or throwing things in the kitchen."  I think he managed to find a remedy, don't you?  We need to think outside of that proverbial box too, and not only that, we need to look perhaps just on top of the lid or at the solution clinging desperately to the side.  The solutions to our dilemmas, to the Earth's healing, to finding connections, and connecting with our joy are right there, but we just need to look at things from a slant, not right on.  We need to close our eyes, open them quick and notice what our eyes first fall upon.   I take many lessons from my son.  This was one of the biggies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

De-valuing the Mother

Warning...this post is a little cranky.  If you are having a lovely day and the sunbeams are following you in your very footsteps, please come back to this another day.

Should it be so surprising to me, in this world, where we ravage, strip, rape, sell for profit, and saturate with more and more toxic chemicals and sludge the Earth, our own Mother, that Motherhood is de-valued?   We have come a long way, so we tell ourselves, in women's rights and respect, that women can vote, run a corporation and be master of her self.  But isn't there a parallel between the state of our Earth, and the little value we place on Mothers?  I have had countless conversations with close friends, family, strangers about how one can't find affordable child care.  Hmm, I ask, you believe the person caring for and seeing to the needs of your Creation your child, should be payed less than you for doing something else?

For a time, our son was enrolled in a private school which held the philosophy that the health and well being, the soul growth of the child depended entirely on their environment and surroundings.  They need a calm daily rhythm, warmth, nurturance, simplicity,  no t.v, beauty, wholesome food, regular meal and rest times and calm, centered and nurturing parents.  They believed this so important that they would offer free evening workshops on developing these qualities.  But here's the rub.  Their tuition was high, as is the tuition of most privately run schools, so they offered financial aid.  However, only, only if both parents were working.  the mother was expected to hold at least a part-time job.  Hmm?  Who did they think would hold together the family?  Who would be the hearth-keeper?  Who would create nourishing meals and lovingly tuck the children into bed?   Would would be calm enough to hold firm to the no-medial policy of the school if Mother was also stressed out, strung out and deleted from working a full and part-time job?  What about the job of Mother, that unpaid, full-time vocation?

We live in a society that expects, and even is economically based upon two-income families. Yet, what is becoming of our children?  Who is available to be "present" for their children when each parent is employed outside of the home?

I do agree that some women really are meant to work, they are their best loving and nurturing selves when they do. They come home to their children re-vitalized and full of enthusiasm and creativity.   But many are not, and they would love to stay at home, and care for their families.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  I would love to see a world where the stay-at-home parent is cherished by society.  Our children desperately need this.  Our world needs children who aren't rushed, who grow up feeling that lovely warmth of a cared-for family.

I'd really like to hear from you on this subject.  I sincerely hope I have not offended anyone here as I do believe each mother is doing what it absolutely the best thing for their family and children.  I do dream of a day when mothers have a true choice.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 International Year of Forests

I've just learned that the UN has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests.  This news brought joy to my heart!  They have a calendar on their website which lists the various meeting which will be held all year to discuss this most important topic of Forests.  I am really looking forward to see Gaia's people awaken this year.

We live near a forested park which is part of the NY Parks Department.  She is the gold of this neighborhood and I cannot imagine our lives without her.  Here, in a world of traffic, exhaust, pavement and steel-structured buildings, our forest is home to hundereds of tree species, a haven to migrating and local birds.  When I walk through her trails I can smell deep woodsy earth, and her soil rich and full of humus.   As hundreds of trucks barrel their way down union turnpike, spewing out their exhaust on their way to other parts of the city, her trees inhale the carbon monoxide and exhale pure fresh oxygen for us to breathe.

Yes, I am grateful for The International Year of Forests.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wee can have some fun in NYC! or Vanilla Bean Pudding

This is from a fabulous NYC'ers foodie blog called the Smitten Kitchen.  I've just copied down her recipe for vanilla bean pudding.  Tomorrow I'll crack open a bottle of my own Ronnybrook Farm milk and prepare some. Yum!  I am imagining something akin to creme brulee but perhaps more conceivable as an everyday treat.  We need a bit of sweetness in this world.