Ice Boxes and Refrigerators

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

3/15/18

Note from the Author
Readers may have noticed a months-long interruption in this blog. That’s because life got in the way. Or rather, death. There occurred the last illness and death of a loved one, followed by all that must be done after someone dies, and that was a demanding time. Afterward, as so many caregivers do, I got sick. But now the green blade riseth again, and I am well, and I hope you will excuse my temporary absence and enjoy the future with me.

___________________________

Southern Refrigerators

A friend from California said to me that we in Enchanted Habitat are strange in that we keep goods in the refrigerator that don’t need to be there. “Like what?” I said. “Sugar, flour, baking soda, shortening,” (Californians don’t say Crisco). “Shall I go on?” she said.
“But those do need to be refrigerated! They’ll spoil,” I said. Then I said, “At least they might get stale. And no bugs can get to them in the refrigerator.”
She gave me a look that said the West Coast equivalent of, “Bless your heart,” and we left it at that.

Afterward I thought about it, and the next time I bought a pound of flour I tried putting it in a container on a shelf in the pantry, but I just couldn’t do it. All of my people have put everything they could in the refrigerator, dating from the time they got refrigerators. Which hasn’t been that long ago, depending how old you are. Some of us are still around who forget and say icebox when we mean refrigerator.  I remember The Ice Man coming with huge blocks to stock the icebox when I was maybe five.

A wrinkle in time.

The Ice Man. Out of a storybook. Awesome in the original meaning of the word. Drove up in a covered truck filled with 50-pound ice cubes sitting in clean wet orange sawdust. Big man, because he had to be.  Wore tall wet black rubber boots. A wet brown leather shield covered his back as protection from the blocks of ice he gripped with iron tongs as long as I was, and slung over his shoulder.

Almost back to now.

You know that old hand-me-down icepick you keep in the very back of your kitchen junk drawer so you won’t stick yourself with it?  That thing you use two or three times a year to punch holes, and retrieve small items that fall into crevices, and such, and you would no more throw away than you would a holy relic? There was a time somebody used that to chip ice.

Back to the future.

So yes, if you come to my house and want to bake or fry anything, go first to the refrigerator.

__________________________

From The Creatures Gazette: Rabbit Outruns Dog Every Time

Most nights, in the backyard, comes a rabbit. I think she wants the dog to chase her.  Bunnybunny always wins by many lengths. I swear she enjoys it.  She is faster, and also she has a strategy.  She waits until the dog discovers her, and then runs toward the dog, then makes a sharp turn and circles back and races the whole length of the yard in a full-out, foot-thumping, dog-gasping contest. The dog is always far behind. Bunnybunny exits the yard through a little hole in the fence and disappears into the neighbor’s yard. The dog participates in this non-match with all her heart, same thing over and over, many times a week, and when it ends she is stoic each time. I think she should get a medal for dog-ness. Doggedness.

But aha! one night there was also a guest dog. Two dogs. Guest Dog is half Beagle, half Terrier, but at least this night she was less than the best example of her breeds. She is not the one who “scared up” (as we say here) the rabbit; Home Dog did. When the noisy chase began, and all the way through it, Guest Dog stood around still sniffing things, trying to get information through her nose about what was happening. The rabbit did not believe this could happen: near the end of the chase, with Home Dog far behind as usual, Bunnybunny ran smack into Guest Dog. They were both knocked for a loop. Bunnybunny recovered quickly and left the yard. Guest Dog got up slowly and headed for the house.


The Dirt on Dirt, Please

Have you ever read about the latest archeological dig/discovery that’s gonna redefine history as we know it, and wondered: How do these places get covered up in the first place? where did all that dirt come from?

I don’t mean dirt that already exists and is displaced and pushed around by such as glaciers or dust storms or earthquakes. I mean new dirt. Dirt that somehow made its own self, and over time accrued in such amounts as to bury whole cities; what is that dirt made of?  What is the origin of dirt? 
We all have personal experience of dirt coming mysteriously from nowhere and accruing. I deal with this most notably because it accrues under the little feet-pads of my computer mouse, which then drags. About twice a week I turn the mouse over and scrape its little feet with the letter opener and end up with a tiny pile of detritus of a dark neutral color. But surely, even after a hundred centuries, this kind of micro-particle debris could not account for the burial of Gobekli Tepe. So what does?

Off the top of my head I made a list of some candidate ingredients that might decompose together over a long time and constitute dirt. I will only name some here. The list starts out okay with, “pollen, dust,  human and dog hair,” but then the items tend to get disgusting, beginning with, “dandruff, dead dust mites,” and, believe me, other bits of life you don’t want me to name. But my list would not make enough dirt to matter, even with an addition nominated by my California friend: the item frust, which according to the Urban Dictionary is the small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dustpan and keeps backing a person across the room until she finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.

So if any readers know the answer to the mystery of dirt, kindly enlighten the rest of us.


This is my season for scarcity of home-grown garlic. It’s early Spring and other plants are burgeoning everywhere, but when I go to my pantry and take the lid off my terracotta garlic house and look to see what’s left: naught but two or three cloves. And a long time before I can replenish. Mid-June at the earliest is when the local backyard gardeners harvest. Meanwhile, I’ll get only grocery store garlic. Clean and white, yes, not a speck of dirt in their controlled-looking little roots. But not as clever in the tasties.



(c) Credit for archeological dig photo: Can Stock Photo / herraez

 Copyright 2018 Ruth Byrn

Watersheds and Wrens

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

6/25/17 – 7/4/17

The Fourche Creek Watershed

I’ve lived my life in the midst of a natural wonder and never knew it ’til now.

Here is a bird’s-eye view of my new discovery, The Fourche Creek Watershed. (Fourche is pronounced fush, rhyming with bush.) Thanks to Audubon Arkansas for this map and the factual information about it. The annotations are mine. Click on it to enlarge it.

This map shows Fourche Creek and its tributaries, starting in Saline County, flowing east through Little Rock, and emptying into the Arkansas River.

This watershed covers 108,800 acres! About 73% of the surface area of Little Rock drains into it! During a typical storm it can store up to one billion gallons of water!

The city of Little Rock cites the economic value and savings from natural purification in the Fourche bottomlands to be in the millions of dollars. Wikipedia

The creek, watershed, and wetland areas provide water purification, efficient storage of floodwaters, urban noise reduction, air and water pollution control, and wildlife habitat within the city.

Fourche Creek itself is home to over 50 species of fish (one fourth of all Arkansas fish species). Also living there are three hundred year old bald cypress trees, other riparian trees, and a diverse population of permanent and migratory birds.

The tributaries include six third-order streams and nine primary tributaries.  If you don’t already know about stream classifications and are interested you can look here. I’ve been personally acquainted with some of these tributaries off and on all my life, and was surprised to learn about them: that they are tributaries, and how far they travel, and that they have been officially observed and classified.

I’ve heard the name Fourche Creek since I can remember, but it was a vague reference to a creek somewhere around here that nobody I knew was concerned with. If ever as a child I saw a sign designating Fourche Creek, I don’t know it. The term watershed I first heard at age maybe twenty, thirty. My elders had no call to use that word when I was a child, and the subject wasn’t in the curriculum in my early schooldays, nor did it appear in my higher education.

It was Audubon Arkansas that led me to the meaning–and the wonderment–of this watershed (and thus all watersheds). And here in my old age I became curious about exactly where within my native land Fourche Creek is, and what it is.

Within Little Rock’s city limits you can take a wildlife hike or float down Fourche Creek anytime you feel like getting away for half a day. How ’bout that for an Enchanted afternoon?

Unfortunately, not all of Fourche Creek is this pristine-looking. Thoughtless and/or ignorant citizens of Enchanted Habitat have dumped and littered Fourche Creek without mercy throughout the history of the city. Audubon Arkansas publicizes this pollution, and has lead a volunteer cleanup campaign for the last ten years. The volunteers have removed tons of dumped tires, bottles, and general trash, and will keep going. Unsung heroes.

If you want to know about the different kinds of volunteer opportunities sponsored by Audubon Arkansas, you can start here.

Also Audubon Arkansas wants us all to know that anything that flows down a storm drain goes untreated into the nearest waterway. Their efforts toward discouraging dumping in storm drains includes a drain sticker program and an artists’ competitive drain-painting campaign to attract attention to the problem: Drain Smart.

I came back from my fact-finding forays about the Fourche Creek Watershed with a sense of thankfulness and a beginner’s appreciation for this great resource hidden in plain sight.

I hope our national elected officers will reverse the present trend of devaluing the environment and will instead increase funding to help our local people rescue and preserve it. What example of worth could be plainer than the Fourche Creek Watershed?


What We Do for Love (of Carolina wrens)

In a recent post I related my friend’s contest with a Carolina wren who was determined to homestead in her house or at least near a door. We left the tale at the stage called “it’s a draw”, with the bird nesting in a hanging flower basket on the covered back porch.

Chapter Two begins with my friend’s realization that new babies are in that flowered nest, and that she herself must give up her own lovely mini-vacations on the porch, on the chaise, in the shade, drinking tea. I interviewed her about this experience.

She said, “The parents fuss and scold, but I could tolerate that. It’s that they stop feeding the babies while I’m there. I can’t enjoy my time out there because I keep knowing the babies are hungry. They peep regularly.”

She went on to say, though, that she finds giving up her comforts to be a fair trade-off. I asked what she is getting in return for her temporary loss. She said, “Every time I go in and out my back door I get a little gift. The babies (there are either two or three) don’t know to shut up when I’m out there. I hear their little voices get stronger and louder every day. I can go on down to the yard and sit (in the hot sun) and watch the crafty parents feed the babies.

“They approach one at a time. They rarely fly directly to the nest. They light under the porch. Then hop to the railing on the steps. Then the top rail. They take a good look around and then hop up to the nest in the hanging pot. The pot swings, the luckiest baby gets a bug, things are quiet for a few seconds, then the parent perches at the edge of the pot and takes another look around before hopping off and swooping away. During this process, the second parent has usually taken up a waiting position, then takes its turn when the other is finished.

“Why is this so magical? It’s a process that is going on everywhere and is not unusual. But these little birds—I’m getting to know them so well. They are so keen and clever.

“We are living in the same space. I know I probably irritate them, but they get a tradeoff, too. Their comparative tolerance of humans and our ways means that they can get some protection in the little bubble around my house where other wild things are reluctant to come.”


Guest Artist

Applause to Patricia Ryan Madson, my friend from the Etegami Fun Club, for this beautiful melon card and message. Posted with her permission.


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn 

Image credits as noted

Keep Away the Dragons!

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

6/19/17 – 6/24/17

 

Midsummer

Not in Enchanted Habitat, for sure

This week held Midsummer’s Eve; the Summer Solstice; the year’s shortest night followed by the longest day. Here in Enchanted Habitat this marker of Earth’s cycles came and went almost unremarked, as it always does. Well, no, the TV weatherpersons do always mention it. And Wikipedia told me Unitarian Universalists celebrate the summer solstice as a religious holidayBut to my knowledge there were no bonfires here with leaping, dancing, and chanting pertaining to the fecundity of nature; and if ever there have been, nobody told me.

It was only this year that I first realized that we, here, as an overall culture, are among those who ignore the Summer Solstice. When I did think about that (who knows why?) I was disappointed in us at first, but then I got curious. Why is it that we don’t get excited about Midsummer?

Here are some facts I found out. They don’t answer the question, but I think they’re interesting.

European Christianity attempted to bring the great ancient pagan observance of Midsummer under rule and call it St. John’s day. Virtually all of the Western and Eastern European countries’ and Canada’s local populations celebrate Midsummer/St. John’s Day in their own various ways, usually including a big bonfire.

The specific purpose of the bonfires, nowadays, is whatever one wants it to be, the meaning is unspecified. Unspecified, because one wouldn’t be wanting, nowadays, to say it’s to keep away the dragons/bad luck/evil spirits/witches.

Wikipedia listed a few locales in the U.S. as having their own more-or-less-institutionalized observances. None of those places is near here.

Back to the question of Enchanted Habitat’s seemingly-inexplicable indifference to Midsummer. We here are certainly not lacking in archetypal knowledge and tendencies. Scratch a native-born central Arkansan and you will find a secret streak of ancient psyche every time. Secret even from the owner. And that, I conclude, is the answer to the question. Who we really are runs too close to the surface. We dare not turn our real selves loose at Midsummer, and therefore we don’t even think of it.


Friends in Really Low Places

This apparent moonscape is part of my backyard. The photo is cropped from a broader area showing probably a dozen of the round holes.  Each hole is small, about the size of the tip of your little finger. They are bumblebee holes. At least I think that’s what the bees are. If you stand and watch the holes for ten minutes, you will see what appear to be bumblebees arriving one at a time and then cleverly disappearing headfirst down a hole that seems too small for it. Soon you will see a bee emerge and lift slowly up into the air and then zoom off fast, like a wee fuzzy jet plane.

I’ve seen this all my life; it’s a common sight here. Always, I’ve assumed each bee has its own little house, does its own thing. Now I’m wondering if all those little houses are connected down there under the earth. From what I can read without devoting my life to it, there are many many kinds of bumblebees, and all are colony creatures, and the members of a colony live together and have a queen, etc., same as honeybees only not so organized. And nowhere in my reading have I found a reference to single little holes near each other in the bare dirt.

If any readers know the answer to what’s going on down there, or not going on, kindly enlighten us.

My second underground friend, here, stays at least part of the time in this hole.  I think the hole goes all the way under the house. If you guessed chipmunk, you get a blue ribbon. I think he’s the same one who has another hole near the fence. That one, he has to defend. I’ve seen him attack a full grown squirrel that came too near that hole. Mr. C. Munk likes to use the patio as a shortcut on his way here and there, no matter that we scare each other all the time. This is how I found out that chipmunks scream. I read that their screaming helps them elude predators by surprising and confusing them. I think someone made that up. They probably just scream when they’re scared,  same as we do.


Prime Time to Dine Alfresco

My friends will tell you I will never eat outside if I have a choice. I’m very interested in fauna, but not in my food. I included this picture because other people say they like to eat alfresco. Enjoy!


Photo, Bonfire in Freiburg im Breisgau by Ralf Johann, in Wikipedia

Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Friends in High and Low Places

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

6/11/17 – 6/18/17

 

from Waterfall
by Chris Williamson

When you open your life to the living
all things come spilling in on you
and you’re flowing like a river,
the Changer and the Changed.
You got to spill some over.
Filling up and spilling over, it’s an endless waterfall . . . 


Friends in High and Low Places

The stubborn robin who was in the standoff with me about whether she would build her nest in my patio ceiling fan finally gave up and raised her family somewhere else. I’m glad she wasn’t a Carolina wren. Humans are no match for them.

Wrens are smart, explorative, and bold, and they believe human houses and household accessories are theirs. When one of them scouts your house and gets it in her mind to nest on the patio or porch, you are in for it. It doesn’t matter that they are wee tiny. To begin with, they can scare you half to death.

A friend told me this story. Last year she kept her garden gloves and tools in a rubber bucket by the door on her back porch, which is roofed. She walked within a foot of it two or three times a day without a clue that a bird had appropriated it. Then came a day to tend the garden. My friend said when she reached down into the bucket and the bird exploded up out of there, it scared her so much something changed in her brain. She was left with a permanent aversion to the bucket.

But that’s not all for this friend who is a winner in all ways except wren ways. She has dogs, and she has a doggie door, and sometimes she leaves that open. And this year guess what.

She says it is the same bird who nested in the bucket. AKA the same bird whose little beak cut and removed strands of aluminum wire from the bedroom window screen, trying to get in. She first knew it was in the house when her delicate hanging mobile made crashing sounds instead of tinkles. The dogs never even knew the bird was there. Dogs have senses so much keener than ours, you know. Their mistress ushered them to the other side of the French doors. Then she turned off all the lights and headed toward the back door, thinking to open it wide. But the wren beat her there and zoomed out through the doggie door.

This bird soon chose a place outside the house but still under roof: the vinca basket hanging on the back porch. You can see the nest under construction.

 

 

 

My own latest tale of contests with takeover critters begins and ends with No Contest. A year ago I hung an empty watering can on the patio wall and later found dry grass in it, abandoned bird nest material. I meant to empty and clean it. Meant to only. Now, a bumblebee lives in there. One bumblebee, I think, who, several times a day verrrrry sloooowly and mindfully floats in from its doings like a peaceful monk, and disappears into the can. I figure if I’ve left the can one year I can leave it two. Namaste.

 


‘Tis the Season for the Swimming

However old you are, however many memories you have by now (or don’t), I bet you remember being in the swimming pool in summer when you were a little kid.  I do.

I also have some great memories from when I was older, of teaching little kids to swim. That experience was one of the more worthwhile (and fun!) things I’ve ever done. The picture below is a lesson group of 20 years ago at the YWCA in Little Rock. That institution exists no more in Enchanted Habitat,  I’m sorry to say.

Swim Kids

‘Tis Also the Season for Fresh Garlic

My friend gifted me with newly harvested garlic just in time. Last year’s was getting  sparse in its terra cotta house, and showing signs it might be about to go off. Only garlic could last a year anyway. And the new crop is all that the old was. Thank you Friend, thank you Earth, thank you Garlic!

 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Waterfall photo copyright Can Stock Photo

Carolina wren photo from Wikimedia Commons by John Flannery from Richmond County, North Carolina, USA – Carolina Wren, CC BY-SA 2.0

Come Saturday Morning

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/27/17 – 6/3/17

Come Saturday Morning

It is the second Saturday after the schools let out for summer. The streets in my neighborhood are extra friendly to pedestrians and riders of non-motorized wheeled things. Pre-teen boys especially appreciate the locale, and I’m hoping some will ride by and grace the view out there. Last year a small group met up at the intersection near my house most of the Saturday mornings of the season. Boys of any age don’t much hold still, but I did manage to get this sketch of them.

Later I took a photo and did this painting of two of them who lasted as a pair longer than the others. They put me in mind of a song of 1970.

Come Saturday Morning

Come Saturday morning
I’m goin’ away with my friend
We’ll Saturday-spend til the end
of the day
Just I and my friend
We’ll travel for miles in our
Saturday smiles
And then we’ll move on
But we will remember long after
Saturday’s gone

(Music by Fred Karlin, lyrics by Dory Previn)

 


Two Rivers Park

Two Rivers Park, Little Rock, AR, USA

We of the county and the city where I live were blessed in recent years to have had governmental officials who cared about nature and beauty and about our citizens’ ability to access those. These good leaders took actions to turn visions into reality. One result is our county’s remarkable Two Rivers Park.

I live in midtown and I can get to the park in 15 minutes, thanks in part to a new pedestrian bridge at its eastern tip. You can see the bridge in the lower right hand corner of the photo if you enlarge this photo.

This huge (1,000 acres) park is a peninsula bordered by the Arkansas River on its north side and the Little Maumelle River on its south. The two rivers converge at the tip of the park; thus its name.

There are 450 acres of mostly wooded wetlands and 550 acres of open fields.

This incredible getaway place offers both paved and dirt trails for walking, cycling, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Also there are canoe launching, fishing and picnic areas.

If you want to have a big vegetable garden you can rent a tract there, and be in company with other community gardeners.

Deer live there year-around, protected. The haiga/haiku below was inspired by one of several encounters with the deer.

The deer will watch you calmly unless you come too close; then they magically melt away and become invisible in the high growth of the fields.

Hundreds of Eastern bluebirds are there sometimes. Can you imagine looking across a field and realizing you are seeing hundreds of bluebirds? And other wildlife of course. It is a paradise for birdwatchers, photographers, artists, and nature enthusiasts.

There is also an area that showcases native trees by transforming some of the fields into a walkable Garden of Trees.

The park is a connected part of the Arkansas River Trail, which is a fantastic story unto itself, a topic in a later blog post.

 


Speaking of Bluebirds

© 2017 dosankodebbie

One thing does lead to another. Serendipitously my friend dosankodebbie in Japan posted this photo of her latest etegami today. If you don’t already know about etegami, it is Japanese postcard art done according to certain guidelines. One of my favorite kinds of art to do, and to look at. There is a great Facebook Group, Etegami Fun Club, administered by Debbie. If you are interested in learning (free!) how to do etegami, go to dosankodebbie’s online summary.

 


In the Green Cathedral

The butter lilies in the back yard have been coming and going for a week.

 Once again, great gratitude to the previous owner of this house. The lilies line the back fence. I’ve lived here about 20 years and they’ve never failed to rise up out of the ground and add their glory to creation.

 

 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Akashic Pasta

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/15/17 – 5/26/17

High Calorie Out-of-this-World One-Dish Pasta Meal

Here is a recipe that came to me from the akasha and is good eating.

If you are an experienced cook you will know the proportions you like for the ingredients. If inexperienced, be generous with everything and then adjust according to your taste. If you are watching your weight you should not even read this.

Kalamata olives enchanted.jpg

Ingredients
Penne Pasta, cooked and drained, but still hot
Smoked Gouda Cheese, cubed. Prep it ready to stir in and go melty in the hot drained pasta.
Fajita Chicken Strips, cooked, cubed. (If frozen, defrost.)
Tomatoes,  whole medium fresh (or canned) diced. Include the juice.
Green Peas, fresh (or frozen and defrosted), uncooked or slightly cooked.
Kalamata Olives, whole, pitted, drained
Mayonnaise (be generous)
Seasoned Rice Vinegar (be generous)
Salt

Directions
Stir everything together in a big bowl.


Good Manners in Enchanted Habitat

A friend who grew up in California and moved here observes that we in Enchanted Habitat have at least three nicenesses she’s never noticed anywhere else.

One, I have named the Mandatory Entryway Compliment (MECompliment).
When we as a guest enter someone else’s home, we always, somewhere near the front door, find a way to say something that sounds admiring about the place. Such as, “Oh your yard is so nice!” or “Oh, hardwood floors are so wonderful, aren’t they!” Women usually include the exclamation points. Also, even if it is the tenth time we’ve been there we find still again something else nice to say, or at least find a new way to say a previous thing.

Only if the householder might be our mother or BFF might we exempt ourselves from the MECompliment.

Or if we want to be covertly rude.

Next, there is Making Small Talk About The Weather (MSTATWeather). My grandmother taught me how to do it and why, and this ability has served me all my life. But it only works in the company of people who also know how to do it. Unfortunately not everyone does. It would help us if more did. It takes at least two to tango here, and if you are the only one doing MSTATWeather, and the others think instead that what you are doing is really talking about the weather, then you’re going to get some odd looks if you persist.

 (Never expect a Californian to MSTATWeather. California doesn’t have weather to begin with. Here, we have real grist for the mill.)

The reason for MSTATWeather is the same as one of the reasons for MEComplimentit gives people something socially safe to talk about. Further, MSTATWeather can be counted on as an inexhaustible subject if need be. The MECompliment is not meant to last as a discussion topic, and is is about five degrees toward personal, so you have to be a tad careful. But the MECompliment is the one that also has secondary purpose. When you say a MECompliment to your host/ess, you are sending a clear signal that your feeling about them is positive–without being obsequious. Is that a clever folkway, or what!

Our third niceness reported by my friend, I call Never Taking The Last Piece (NTTLPiece). No one ever taught me NTTLPiece, I just always knew it. I assume it is a genetically transmitted behavior. The last hors d’oeuvre, the last ear of corn, the last glassful of wine in the bottle, the last spoonful of the mashed potatoes. No matter how much we secretly want it, we will decline it. And then there it is, one lonely little serving that the hostess has to do something with after everyone goes. Unless someone in the party was not from here.

My Californian friend tole me this true story:
After a potluck, one little square of exquisite homemade lemon bar remained. A woman was trying to get someone, anyone, to take it. This woman genuinely didn’t want it herself, and she was not from here originally. My Californian friend said to her, “You’re not going to get anyone to take that. They’re all from here and they never take the last piece of anything.” The woman said, “Oh God, that’s why my husband does that!”


From the Creatures Gazette

Cicadas Gone ‘Til 2028

Last appearing in May/June 2015, the 13-year cicadas will not appear again for 11 years more.  Although this strain is only one of the cicada types inhabiting central Arkansas, it is likely the most numerous in terms of individual insects. Until 2028 fewer children will find and shudder at and show each other empty husks left hanging on tree trunks after the nymphs dig themselves out of the ground and free themselves to be real noisy insects.


Hooray for the Home Grown Farmers’ Markets!

They’re here and open again! Worth every penny. The only other thing to say is, I’ll be so glad when it’s time for tomatoes. 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Now the Green Blade Riseth

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/13/17 – 5/14/17

Plantain

 Now the Green Blade Riseth, Love is Come Again  

My ancestors called this graceful plant Lamb’s Tongue. It is Narrowleaf Plantain, Plantago Lanceolata, aka Ribwort Plantain, English Plantain, and maybe other names.

It has a close cousin which also lives here: Broadleaf Plantain. Much of what can be said of one is true of the other.

Lamb’s Tongue is newly up and blooming here in Enchanted Habitat, on the roadsides, empty lots, uncultivated fields, and unmowed lawns. It grows fast. Two weeks ago it wasn’t there at all, and now it is leafed out and in flower knee high. I love seeing it. (Broadleaf Plantain must come up somewhat later than its cousin; I haven’t seen it yet this year.)

This elegant plant is astonishingly durable and very friendly to humans. It is documented to have existed in what is now Norway 10,000 years ago. It can and does live anywhere from dry roadsides to places as wet as rain forests. The oval-shaped part at the end of the long delicate stem (named “the ovoid inflorescence”, I learned) is made up of tiny white flowers that produce one or two seeds each. The plant also reproduces asexually by cloning. Needless to say it is widespread in the world.

It is native to Eurasia and was introduced to the U.S. from the British Isles, and is so common it is generally classified as an invasive weed, which strikes me almost as a personal insult.

Older generations of folk ate the leaves of both Narrowleaf and Broadleaf Plantain for food and also used them for medicine.

It was probably a staple in the diet and pharmacy of any Stone Age people who lived where it grew. It is high in calcium and Vitamin A, and can be eaten similarly to spinach or other food greens: young leaves can be eaten raw, and older leaves cooked.

Medicinally, science has shown that plantain extract has a wide range of good biological effects including wound healing, reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and acting as an antioxidant; further, it is a weak antibiotic, it modulates the immune system, and is an anti-ulcerogenic agent. Our ancestors made a remedy tea from the leaves for coughs, diarrhea, and emotional trauma. Also the leaves, bruised, were used directly on the skin for infections and as a pain reliever for injuries, insect bites, splinters, boils, and toothache. It is known as a drawing herb, said to have the power to pull out toxins and foreign substances from the body. Some herbal healers have said it draws out bad emotions and soothes the mind.

http://wildernessarena.com/food-water-shelter/food-food-water-shelter/food-procurement/edible-wild-plants/plantain-broad-and-narrow-leaf

Wikipedia.

Here are photos of Narrowleaf and Broadleaf Plantain, respectively, thanks to Wikipedia.

 

 


 

The Green Cathedral

My backyard is “too shaded” because of many big trees on two sides. Its grass is thin in places and never thick in others. This non-lawn and the flower bed and the shrub bed that have both been there for many years are home to a sequence of flowering plants that wake up spontaneously every year and bloom in their turn as their seasons arrive, with no help from me unless you count admiration.

Some of the flowers are wild and some are cultivars put in as long ago as half a century by the house’s one former owner. I will be forever grateful to her.

So far this year the backyard flowers have been Carolina Spring Beauty–here is an on-site photo of those from this year– plus Jonquils, Dogwood, Dandelions, Azaleas, Fleabane, Iris of three kinds, Hyacinth, Henbit, Violets, Roses, and Wild Strawberry blooms.

And some mushrooms, always exquisite. I repeat, I did nothing to cause all this wonder.

The one dogwood tree is old and elegantly thin. Having already quietly bloomed and finished, it is putting out leaves. Companion to the dogwood is its contemporary, a crape myrtle with multiple trunks, each six inches thick. The color of the trunks is unnameable, a neutral soothing color. Two of them have twined around each other. They will put out their watermelon-colored blooms later in the year when the sun rises higher.  Four large oak trees survive to live inside the fence. A years-old thick wild grape vine has formed an arbor at a far corner.

Lining the outside of the fence on two sides and part of another are tall oaks and pines growing in the neighbors’ back yards and overhanging my yard, and behind those trees are more big trees, altogether creating almost a forest around me.

Leading out from the house into all this (and back in) is a short stretch of flagstones with moss of a refreshing lime color that couldn’t live with more sun.

I like it that the yard is “too shady”. It is very green out there, the kind of green that can become part of you, the same as your breath, to renew and reassure you. I am put in mind of a song from high school glee club, the music and the words vibrating through us.

I know a green cathedral,
a hallowed forest shrine
where trees in love join hands above
to arch your prayer and mine.
Within its cool depths sacred,
the priestly cedar sighs
and the fir and pine lift arms entwined
unto the clear blue skies. 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn