Hal's Hat

Hal's Hat

Monday, February 17, 2014

February garden update, Posts You Might Like....

In the Posts You Might Like category, try this:
Are you interested in prairie ecology? I certainly am, as I design "native" plantings and allow native plantings to inform my more formal residential plans. This blog, The Prairie Ecologist, is by a prairie conservator supported by the Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. He has his family's farm and grassland acreage and he's working to restore it and other huge tracts of prairie back to a stable, prairie state. It is fascinating and interesting to read how grazing land goes back to prairie... and also it has nice pictures. Here is a lovely one:
from www.theprairieecologist.com

This is a great Missouri evening primrose. It blooms by night and is the plant used to get (wait for it....) Evening Primrose Oil! I know.... Find a place in your garden for 3 or 4 of these this year? They self seed- they want to populate your garden! But know this and you'll be ready.

February is the month to begin the spring garden. I order seeds that I will direct sow- lettuce, spinach, peas, kale. I will plant broccoli and kohlrabi (cabbage is in this group but I don't have space for it) from plants because they take too long if put in from seed. I will buy these locally.
Potatoes- my neighbor and I are growing these in burlap coffee bags. Putting three seed potatoes per bag and about 6 bags. I order organic seed potatoes!
I realized last night that when I began gardening (vegetable that is) on my own, in a little rental house, I needed some guidance and reassurance. There were so many choices, so many seeds... where was I supposed to start?? Here is the garden calendar that got me through it all! Thanks K-State... your resources are invaluable to all of us gardeners out here. I chose some varieties I had grown with my dad, the lettuces he preferred and radishes. Then I branched out on my own. It'll happen...just keep reading and be patient. Amend your soil and don't use pesticides! I say this because when you first start gardening, it's all a learning experience. See what it's like to use no pesticides. See what fails every time (hello squash bugs and powdery mildew on every squash plant ever) and see what works like magic (Helllooo carrots and lettuce and kale and chard and some tomatoes and some peppers and tomatillos and sweet potatoes and peas).

There you have it- more landscaping updates will be up when I do Jeremy Taylor's radio show this weekend, 10:30 KLWN 1320... use the "Listen Live" button so you don't have to mess with an AM radio! This week I'll be talking about trees, shrubs and plants that stand up to ice/ snow and even the dreaded salt truck. It kills many many many plants... also, how to test your own soil (the quick and dirty way). See you then!


Monday, February 3, 2014

extended break--- winter cave

I have to admit that I just haven't felt like talking. Haven't felt like making sweeping observations or synthesizing new information. So I haven't here. But I am being urged to connect some of you with this wonderful glut of new information I have. This article here really just changed my thinking---well, not changed- this article ARTICULATED so many issues for me. I believe parents with children should read this. It will give you hope and inspiration about your kid's physical/ psychological make up. It is about balance and regeneration. If you have brains, guts and heart, read this! 
Also, I've been asked about DMAE as a supplement for ADHD. Here is a good run down on it- why it works and it safe for many. I'm not in favor of websites trying to sell me stuff, while telling me they are informational. So please ignore that this source is a supplement seller. The scientific info is sound. I have had a very specific reason to use Phosphytidyl Serine and it worked very well. So if you are intrigued, have had fatigue and exhaustion issues, let me know and I'll write up about it. 
Also, the grey times are getting at many of us. It is time to amp up our nutrition. One of the ways is with minerals. We are all lacking on the local greens front, no? Please make yourself some nettle infusion. It's cut nettle leaf, bought from your natural food store, steep in hot water for many hours. I use 1 oz of nettles for a quart of water. This is a great source of magnesium, calcium and other minerals. It is a great helper in all things PMS and menopausal (pre, peri, whatnot). 

Are you fighting the winter sicknesses? Who isn't? Oh those folks with no kids who work alone and never venture out and are really mellow. If this isn't you, take heed. Here are some FLU -fighting remedies.... this doesn't mean they will work if you have the flu. I have had a flu shot this year and I'm not ashamed of it! These herbal, natural and supplemental goodies work with your good nutrition, your herbal support, your good hygiene practices to minimize your chances of contracting the flu. Here they are:

Oscillococcininum:If you suspect that the headache (swollen glands and sore throats are my trademark) and achiness in your muscles is the beginning of the flu, please take Oscillococcininum. It is now available at drugstores as well as the Merc, Vitacost (online discount), Natural Grocers and more. Instead of the whole dosage amount under your tongue at once, I take a 1/4 of it at a time, once per hour or so. If the symptoms are better at the end of it, I know it's working and I will continue for 24 hours. I will rest more, drink more liquids, bone broths, greens and feel better. This has worked for me all season- it also works on kids!!
Probiotics: We are steadily taking pro-biotic tabs. It helps gut flora, immunity, and balance (see above article!). 
Elderberry: We are taking elderberry lozenges. Because elderberry is especially good with kiddos. She's gentle and boosting and reminds the body to stay strong. 
Vitamin D3. The NIH recommends for kids a daily 200IU dose. I give mine 500 IU as there is ample evidence that it is not harmful, fights infections and boosts immunity. I do not give them much if any in the summer. 
Extras that help but aren't necessary..... cod liver oil, fish oil (I use gummies. What of it??)
Here is our flu story this year: my friend since my teenage years contracted H1N1 this winter. She's spent 3 weeks in a coma, fighting for her life from it and the following pneumonia. While she has neither of these at the moment, she is still unconscious, in intensive care and has and ECMO machine functioning for her lungs. She is having dialysis because her liver has begun to fail. I understand and empathize with many of your feelings about vaccines, shots, big pharma... but not right now. It's not a conspiracy- this flu vaccine is actually quadravalent. It deals with the main four types of flu out there this year. It helps with others. It doesn't make a normally healthy and strong person sick. Please consider it. 
That being said, my youngest got the flu the day she and her sis were to get their vaccines. It was heart-wrenching. She was immediately just flattened. We got her tested that day and they determined it was Type 1- the subtype of this is H1N1. She started Tamiflu and it was amazing. Her fever dropped and it didn't go over 99 degrees. Period. We caught it super early and saved her so much suffering.
I say a blessing to the Western medicine that has helped save so many lives, while I burn sage and chant and grow my herbs to support myself so I need very little of the Western medicine. 

On a separate note, I have had a success story that will illuminate my own frayed defenses this cold new year! Picture this: January, extreme stress, life-changing events and studying for the (dammmmmnnnnnn it) GRE. I realized I had a cold-sore rearing its head. I had to cop to my emotions, my stress, my needs and attempt to mediate it all. I chose an adaptogen to help my immunity, that I could safely take in quantity since this was a crisis. Then I chose to take crisis doses of lysine. I put a little bit of essential oil (clove bud oil) on it to encourage the swelling down- it actually worked! Let me tell you it worked well. I've never had actual success heading cold sores off at the pass. My secret agent in all of this is the big Bear medicine, Osha root tincture. It really worked and it's spiciness allowed so much healing in. I took massive doses of lysine (and got a much better lysine supplement that I am taking at maintenance levels weekly, not daily) and rested, did restorative yoga and meditation. Success! Sorry, it's a pitiful story. But hopefully illuminates. Also, prepare for the GRE for months, not a week. M'Kay? Here is the article that brought up adaptogens. 

Be well, keep in touch! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Herbal round up

New stuff on the herbal front....

Dandelion tincture.  We've moved through that crazy full moon and then the dip into waning moon time. Astrologically (whoa, I'm going there. It's an herb blog. I can do it if I want.), Mercury went retrograde and the communication has been dogged and sluggish. I suppose I ought to have tinctured dandelion root at the full moon. But I was staring at the moon. And I was clumsily trying to play ball with all of the super intense Aries energy. I mean.... really? I can't be the only one who was terribly overwhelmed by the intensity of it! But now I'm making dandelion tincture in the new moon, digging by moonlight. Allowing the dark roots to be dark and help me during my hibernation this winter. 

Ayurvedic physicality and changing temperature. I've been studying the three ayurvedic physicalities. Pitta, Vata, Kapha.... clearly I'm very fiery and dry and hot and a Pitta. I'm seeking to work with this in mind as I work on my herbal remedies. As all herbs don't work the same way for all bodies, it's important to register what your physiology is and what your issue/ affliction is. This allows me to identify that I frequently feel burned out/ burned up and dried out. What works to nourish and calm my system frequently is nettle. I also have need of demulcent herbs- herbs with a mucilagenous quality. These nourishes my throat and chest (comfrey, slippery elm, licorice root). The Ayurvedic schema is assisting me to identify and experiment here! 


I am a big believer in all things rosemary. Not rosemary all the time, mind you. But I believe that a "simple" or "culinary" herb can have as many vital effects as big-time medicinal herb. This article outlines great ways to use it= as a tea, daily, to improve circulation and brain fog. And this also reiterates my use of it externally as a tissue healer. Oh rosemary oil on my legs! It feels so good.... 

Important herbals this month-- I was given a gift of an ounce or so of Osha root. This is big medicine, bear medicine traditionally, is only wildcrafted and grows above 6,000 ft. Osha root is a bitter, a stimulant of the immune system and aids "winter wellness". Indicated for coughs, to make them productive. So I would say that it's good for a dry chest to get the mucus out. It is commonly used in syrup for coughs and respiratory infections. It is incredibly pungent and spicy smelling. Traditionally, it was also used as a burning smoke for contagious diseases. It contains oxytocin and is contraindicated during pregnancy or nursing. 

Herbally, I'm considering white willow bark. Always good to have some on hand for pain relief. Probably, many of the folks who turn to OTC pain meds don't realize they can have serious liver side effects. I do. I still take them on occasion. However, if we can more naturally ease pain with wildcrafted willow bark, isn't that cool? Please read extensively about this if you want to do it yourself. I am not providing instructions because you need to have a positive botanical plant ID before you gather anything. And I don't feel comfortable with giving you that here- it might be construed as encouragement to gather whatever! As most

of you know, if you gather anything in the wild, make sure you feel good about where it's planted. If you aren't sure if they spray, don't pick/ dig/ harvest there. If you aren't 110% sure of the plant ID, do not do it. Ask a botanist/ herbalist for help. Ask me. Send a picture! If you are gathering a plant that is over harvested/ endangered, you are part of the problem. Please be conscientious and responsible. What I'm exhorting you to do is tune in to your inner voice and look into the areas that are calling to you. I can identify a white willow. It's calling to me! I'll let you know how it goes. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Garden Almanac

Here are some updates to my garden almanac:

Due to that extended stretch of heat in the first three weeks of September, I've replanted my spinach THREE times. I have a few that are happy now and germinated... but sheesh!

My lettuce and chard are both doing fine. Since I started them from seed, they got bedraggled by heat and insects. However, they are loving Autumn and looking like troopers. 

Made some Melissa officinalis vinegar (that's Lemon balm) this weekend. It is the simplest recipe ever: stuff a jar full of lemon balm, pour cider vinegar over it. Cap it. Woo hoo. I use it for salad and soup. It is lovely tasting- lightly lemon. Balm is used for mood lifting and lightening the heart. It isn't a heavy hitter on the herbal medicine scale but not everything needs to be. (Harvested it from the kid's school garden :))

As the equinox approached and the season shifts, I am aware that my body is craving balance. I need to feed it more bitter foods, more wild edibles and nourishing seasonal goodies. It's important, for me, not to give in to my basest cravings. I natively crave carbs the minute a seasonal change appears. I mean, I wander my kitchen mulling my possibilities and settle on cheez-its. I then eat them, notice they feel and taste tangy (that's good) but also muddy (like rancid oil). Really self? This is what you wanted? It turns out that sesame oil is a recommended Ayurvedic remedy for my constitution. I make a salad bowl with kale and lettuce and beets and add lots of sesame oil. Better. Left over Vietnamese beef broth with noodles and green stuff- also very very good. Warming, dark, flavorful but balancing. Adding kale gives it a tang and kick that settles my stomach. 

First apple crisp of the season last night. My dad loved the seasonal apple crisps! 5 lb bag of Jonathon apples from the Rees farm near Perry. Perfect tart flavor!! 

What is approaching? Waiting for the sweet potato leaves to begin to yellow. Harvesting all the tomatoes I can and cooking them down. Harvesting okra here and there for freezing. Tomatillos are STILL producing well!
I made infused oil in the last month as well. I dragged my feet in the summer... so I harvested rosemary and comfrey during their respective bloom times for oil. 

Pro tips: Separate your perennials (that is DIVIDE them) now. Use root stimulator to assist them getting acclimated. The cooler the weather, the easier it is to plant!
Fertilize grass- Milorganite is a manure-based fertilizer that is non-chemical and fairly natural. Spread it on your grass for a green up and assisting the grass roots!
NOW IS DESIGN TIME. Consider design in your landscape. Yes, I'm a designer. Yes, I think design makes everything feel better. You can work within whatever framework you like- permaculture, native landscaping, xeriscape, fancy English gardens.... 
Bulbs--- because you will love yourself in the spring! I mean it. Great big fancy daffodils will make your March. :) Woodland bulbs I love: 


galanthus or snowdrop
grape hyacinth

Bulb tips: forget tulips or understand that they aren't the best perennials. I like and am experimenting with:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This liminal moment: summal, fummer? August 35th?

Good morning September.... it's slowly becoming August lite here. Still hot, rapidly whirling toward my birthday and the equinox. I have been gathering the late summer bounty- tomatillos, peppers, tomatoes.
I've also begun sowing the fall bounty and back to work in the gardens....

Here is what I'm doing: I'm picking up clearance annuals. I've planted dill plants and ornamental peppers and nasturtiums! They are beautiful, enjoy the heat/cool dynamic we will be rocking out with for another few months (?) or weeks.
On August 15, I planted my first crop of the fall garden. I planted green bibb lettuce and red leaf lettuce. I also planted a row of Ruby Red chard, pulled out my old kale, planted a small plot of carrots and some rows of spinach. As usually happens in this liminal moment, this threshhold moment, some seeds were so fertile and ready to grow that the 90 degree days didn't phase them. The spinach promptly told me to go to hell, though. So I replanted more this weekend. I can take rejection.

Seed germination basics: they don't like hot weather and will germinate more evenly in sub 85 degree days! Keep the seed bed evenly moist. If the seed dries out, it's dead. I watered every late afternoon- not ideal, but it works for me. Once you see dichots, keep the watering even and don't let them dry out. They are very tender. If they are being attacked by critter (insect, pests, birds), use a floating row cover to protect. Choose seeds that are meant for the time you are growing. Don't start tomato or basil seeds in late summer for a fall garden. Don't start melons. Here is a great list of what to start when! It is from K-State and is the gold standard. The first pages are how many seeds to plant for the yield you want. Page 3 is the calendar.

My sweet potatoes and okra are happy. My calendula needs cool and looks burnt out. The comfrey offered a second bloom and I collected it! The wild original roses, the old ones, are putting on the second show. The nasturtiums like it dry and coolish- so they offer their bubbly presence. And the freaky, perennial rosemary?? It's decided to bloom. I mean, this plant shouldn't be wintering over. But it's moved into sub-shrub territory!

On the docket this fall-- I'm going to interview my yoga teacher, Sharyn, and get the good info for you on some of the poses that have been reinvigorating me. What about stimulating the thryroid by locking my throat bandha, jalandhara bandha? What poses might support my liver, kidneys and adrenal glands? Also, I found this wonderful article on the psoas muscle. It's a profound eye-opener for me, one of those muscles that does so much.

Have you read this much-shared article about the link between gut flora (pro-biotics HEEEYEEE!) and mental illness/ mental health? It is really good support for the notion that we, adults, should support our gut flora in as many ways as we can. We should identify and eliminate foods that are allegens to us and which make us feel crappy. Then, we should help our guts repair themselves by eating lots of probiotic foods/ probiotic supplements. I don't actually take any supplement but I do give them to my kids. The second part of the article is that gut flora is made or broken in childhood. FEED YOUR KIDS FERMENTED FOODS- like good unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kombucha, fermented vegetables (uhm, good luck?). Or use a probiotic supplement.

Update on RAGWEED (which I keep writing as rage weed. Yes. Rage. Weed.): the ragweed tea, not infusion, is very helpful to me. I do not have intense ragweed allergies this year. The tea has kept my histamine reaction to a minimum! What I did was make a large jar of it. I pruned off ragweed leaves and put them in hot water. Very complex. Then I steeped it for  20 minutes or so. I drank a couple cups every few days. Pleasant. Surprising.]
I know that some people who have bad allergies to Ambrosia (that's the botanical name for all ragweeds) should NOT DO THIS. But for those of us with sneezing and itchy eyes who seek relief without pills, it's pretty nice. 
[Please consult someone knowledgeable before picking random leaves....  I mean, you know that. But consult me, send me a message with a picture if you don't know ragweed by sight. I'm here to help!]

Again a list of what I've linked above:
The K-State garden calendar. All pertinent info about vegetable seeds, when to start, how to gauge yield, perennial/annual status, warm/cool season crop and a basic calendar.
The yoga, psoas muscle article.
The link between gut flora and mental wellness.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Happy Ragweed Day!

ragweed in bloom. 
I just learned that August 15th is beginning of ragweed season. This makes sense as I spent a good part of the morning yesterday pulling giant ragweed from Myrna's school playground.
Here is what I want: I want YOU to identify ragweed. I want you to pull it (it's extremely easy to pull)- every kind you see. I want you to breathe easier.
Why? Ragweed is a serious irritant- it causes hayfever in an estimated 15-30% of people. This means nasal irritation, phlegm, itchy eyes, chest and lung irritation and inflammation, etc. You know the drill don't you? Even though I'm not a terribly allergic person, this pollen irritates the shit out of me (sorry)! And it is cumulative... while it might not irritate you as a kid, the more exposure, the more irritated you will get. And then your body has a histamine reaction to this irritation. That is why many people take an anti-histamine. While I understand and do so occasionally myself, I try to stop the cycle so that I don't have to. Histamine reactions in the body can be serious- Encyclopedia Brittanica ahoy!
Where? All open soil can be a potential site for ragweed. It seems to like poor, disturbed soils. It targets alleys, empty lots, and untended garden sites. If you walk into any alley in Lawrence, you'll see it I would guess.

So how do you do this? I'd recommend long sleeves and whatever else you've got- gloves, pants, shoes. You know. After you're done, wash it all and wash yourself. You will have pollen all over you (hair, skin, etc). Ragweed won't cause an itchy bumpy skin rash- except in the most delicate individuals, I'd guess. So I just pull it out bare handed. But don't do this. My hands are wrecked. Save yourself!

Kinds: Small leaved ragweed is about 18" high and has fine ferny leaves. 
this is the small leaved ragweed. 
A giant ragweed: what those leaves look like. 
This is giant ragweed. Just step into your alley to survey that 5' tall giant staring back at you. It's bloom covered in pollen, right at nose level. 

How do I cope with hayfever you ask? I use homeopathic hayfever tabs from Hylands. These work moderately well. I try to be preventative- don't let your body get really worked up. As I said, it's a reaction that will just crank itself up like a sleep-deprived 4 year old. Head that off at the pass! Take it many times a day. If you let it go too far, you might as well take an Allegra, Zyrtec etc. I'm not even going to research that stuff. When I resort to it, I'm usually so miserable I just don't care. 
Also, this year I really am making a tincture from the blooming tops of ragweed. I've heard this is the most effective but haven't tried it. I will keep you posted on results! Also, I'm gathering leaves to dry for infusions/ tea. I wouldn't try the infusion if you are seriously allergic. But the tea would be a safe stepping stone.
If anyone wants to do a weed-walk and plant identification walk, please contact me! I have time in my schedule. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Capturing the heat....

One of the most fascinating parts of creating a garden is discovering, newly every year, what succeeds against all odds. As a designer, I want to give my clients every opportunity to enjoy THIS time of year. By this, I mean late summer. The cicadas, the start date of the school year in view, the heat, the humidity, the tomatoes, the peppers and eggplants, the mosquitoes and lighting bugs. The argiope spiders! It's the time of year when we begin harvesting what we sowed. It's the time when I remember to surrender to the heat and enjoy the salsa. Iced drinks and fleeting time-- gardens are time catchers. So put objects and plants in them that capture and express the beauty of certain times of year....

Here are some suggestions for plants that make me happy during this fleeting time.

Blackberry Lily--This is an oddball. Used to be rare but I'm seeing it more lately. Actually an iris (Belamcanda chinensis), this guy puts on black berries in the fall and is very decorative. It has very small and airy blooms with that crazy red dot... they don't last long but they sure do tower above everything else and create a real note of contrast!

Echinacea-- This is the prairie favorite. It does require additional water when the drought settles in. But not too much... those seed heads and the purple flower really inspire and delight me.The goldfinches love them in season and in winter! 

Spurge- Pairs very well with the Blackberry lily because this hugs the ground, has the small minty green "needle-like" leaves and a persistent bloom (directly contrasting the Blackberry lily). Spurge is strange- reported to be invasive in livestock fields yet a really, really great landscape plant. Drought tolerant and nearly a succulent.... Odd and wonderful.

Hardy Hibiscus- This is a showy mofo. She's loud and tall and her foliage is great. She's worth the wait! Need I say more?

Tiger Lilies- These came with the house, as far as I remember. As in, they came with the house when my folks bought it in 1979! These are a real lily, 3-4' tall. Now they are in dappled shade but they prefer sun. These small black bulblets are how the plant reproduces!

This montage of awesome are yellow Rudbekia 'Goldsturm' with Lantana (an annual) in front of them. I need to reinforce right here- this is why you plant annuals! The color and the wow when it's hot and dry. Also, behind them, that mass of grey-green is 'Silver Mound' Artemesia. It's stunning.

Here are some extras that are not pictured but so worth it in the late summer: Ninebark "Summer Wine" has amazing burgundy foliage and a great structure. Caryopteris is not quite in bloom yet but I always remember why I love this plant right now. Bright blue blossoms, 3' tall stature, grayish foliage. This is one that wasn't probably as cold tolerant at one time. New varieties are really useful and great.

Also, please enjoy this amazing shrimp/ avocado salsa recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.... hubba hubba!

Here are some garden reminders for this part of the season:

It really is time to divide and replant bearded irises. They go into a summer dormancy. Use you garden fork and lift the rhizomes and divide them. Replant them when it isn't over 90 degrees-- other than that, it's pretty simple!

Warning: the spider mites are out in force. I wrote on the landscape company blog about this topic, so visit there if you're interested.