Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Using family members as guinea pigs

I made up a batch of salve with some plantain infused oil that I made up a couple of weeks ago. In an earlier post I mentioned how fresh plantain leaves, crushed and the juice rubbed on poison ivy, is an excellent source of itch relief.

Well, I infused some oil with fresh plantain leaves, but it didn't have the same effects on poison ivy as the fresh juice. It did seem to be very good for mosquito bites, though. So I made up some salve hoping that it would be a good treatment for bug bites and stings, but now I have to try it out to see if it works well before putting it up for sale on my Etsy site.

I asked my son, "Do you have any itchy bug bites?"

Him: "No."

Me: "Oh. That's so sad."

Him: "It's sad that I don't have itchy bug bites?"

Me, the good mother: "Yes."

In the evening I purposly lured my hubby out on the back porch. After a while -

Me: "The mosquitos are out - do you have any bites?"

Hubby: "No, lets go inside."

Me, going inside: "No, stay out a while longer. I need someone to get an itchy bite."

My family loves me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where the wild things are...

That describes my yard.

If I turn my back on it, it begins to go wild. I've been battling weeds, spraying poison ivy, trimming wayward hedges, trying to keep the herb garden from going native, removing dead squirrels (actually, delegating said task to hubby), and rescuing chipmunks from the jaws of cats.

But its all waiting for just a few short days of neglect. If I turn my back for just a moment, the wild will return with abandon.

A well ordered yard takes a lot of effort - a half feral yard takes even more.

Whew! I need a tall class of iced tea.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Busy with herbs

I've been busy gathering herbs.

I found an elderberry bush from which I've gathered some blossoms. The bush grows near the old farmhouse that's close by. I'm sure that elderberry was there on purpose for use in the household way back when, but now you've got to wade through waist-high goldenrod, ironweed, and assorted other things to get to the bushes. And you have to battle the wild roses that grow alongside to get to the blossoms - all the time trying not to rub against the poison ivy.

My daughter laughed at me because after getting through all of that and wrestling with the bush to reach the high-up blossoms, my head was covered with the little, star-like flowers which had shaken loose and showered down on me. The Elder Mother, whose permission you are supposed to ask before taking the blossoms, was playing games with me. I hadn't asked for her permission : ) So instead, finally remembering my manners, I thanked her as I left.

I also found several spots where yarrow is growing wild - the wild edges of the park next door, on a hill by a roadside, etc. It's in bloom right now so I've gathered some of that, too.

I added lavender to my garden this year and I've been gathering blooms off of that.

A few things that I'm excited about that I have in my garden this year are: holy basil, evening primrose, elecampane, and, of course, calendula.

The scent of holy basil is amazing. I think it's my new favorite! It's spicy in a clove sort of way. I'll add it to teas to stave off oncoming illness (colds/flu) or to help when a person already has something nasty. I'll also mix it with lemon balm for a relaxing tea.

I've purchased several new jars in which to keep my dried herbs.

A few things I've made recently with fresh herbs:

Elder blossom infused cider vinegar

Plantain infused oil

Yarrow infused oil

Plantain glycerite

It's important to always check on the safety of the herbs you want to use. I have several books which told me that elder leaves could be infused in oil to be used on the skin and wounds, etc. I was happily making some of this oil when I brought up elderberry on one of the medical sites which summarize uses, clinical studies, and cautions of herbs and their remedies. Turns out the leaves, bark, root, and unripe berries of the elder should not be used. They contain a cyanide-like compound which can be poisonous. So out went the oil being infused with elder leaves.

If I feel industrious I'll try to add a few pictures to this post later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cupid and Psyche

Here is a sculpture, found in the Louvre, depicting the main characters in one of my favorite mythological tales, that of Cupid and Psyche:

A beautiful sculpture for what is both a beautiful and, in some ways, sad story - even Cupid had troubles with love. But it has a happy ending.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th of July weekend!

Here are some fireworks for you:









Swii!shhh Bang!






And the finale ......

Happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I should be cleaning, but... an update instead

We are having people over tomorrow for a fireworks party. Our nice little town has a spiffy 4th of July display, usually just before, or just after the 4th. We have the best seats in the house because the fireworks are shot off in the park right next door. The whole neighborhood is practically one big party on that night - which, this year, is tomorrow night.

So I should be tidying up, but, always looking for an excuse to take a break, I've decided to post an update on my manuscript.

Way back in February a literary agent requested to see the full manuscript of a work that I had submitted the first chapter of. I said back then that I would keep you updated.

Well, I think this manuscript may be cursed, because I never heard back. Even after politely emailing when the three month mark had passed (which is perfectly acceptable to do). The funny thing is, this is the second time this has happened.

This particular manuscript has been requested three times. One agent responded really rather quickly and passed on it. One thanked me for sending it and said that she would get to it right after Book Expo America (last year's BEA), and then I never heard from her again (even after a polite 3 month email, too). And then came this last request and... nothing.

So perhaps it's cursed.

I'm working on a couple of other projects, though, so I'm thinking this one will go into a drawer now.

It's very exciting for an agent to request your manuscript, but it's equally frustrating when you realized you've dumped it into a black hole and will never ever hear anything back.

Ah well, time to move ahead. And get back to cleaning ; )

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yew trees and churchyards

Apparently many churchyards in England have yew trees growing in them. Some of the trees are much older than the churches, and some have obviously been planted there when, or after, the church was built, sometimes near a door, as in the picture below:

The religious/spiritual/ritual/sacred significance of the yew goes back beyond the advent of Christianity in England. Churches were sometimes built on sites that had pre-Christian sacred/spiritual significance, hence the presence of yews already.

The yew continued to signify a connection to those gone before us to the hereafter, and of death, but also of life everlasting - resurrection in Christian terms. So they were often purposely planted on church grounds.

This particular door with its yews is said to be the possible inspiration for the doors of Moria in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is found at the rear of a church in a small town in the Cotswolds, where Tolkien is said to have gone wandering and sketching. In Tolkien's version, however, the trees flanking the doors are ancient hollies.

An interesting aside, in the Harry Potter books, Voldemort's wand is made of yew wood (it dispenses death, yet its wielder seeks everlasting life), and Harry's wand is made of Holly - anciently thought to be a ward against evil.