As Above

This morning a thought keeps running through my mind and down into my heart, settles in every cell and every patient tear. The people we lose will never come back physically but they are here with us somehow. I don’t understand it but for better or worse, we do leave our trace. Each person is such a unique creation, completely original in every way. I cherish the thought and it brings with it a certain responsibility to not only be open to loving the light within but also the places where we fall short, either by the standards we set for ourselves or by the standards our society and culture sell to us. We are such amazing creations and we get caught up in survival, comparison, fear, doubt, fantasy, people pleasing; sometimes we feel, we are not doing enough, making enough, loving enough. What if we could let that all go. What if for this moment we take a deep breath together and let it all go and be satisfied with what is, for now, for this second for this breath.

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas

When I am in the garden I can relax and be with the plants, really look at them, breathe their scent, touch their feathery leaves or their prickly surface and taste their essence. I can hear the bees buzzing around the borage, the hummingbirds zooming, the chickadee’s “chic a dee dee deeing”. I see a robin with a worm, a crow with a branch for nesting, a golden wing of a finch flitting by. Every moment unique and beautiful. This spring I planted Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas. It’s been years since I had their lovely purple flowers in the garden. I waited and waited and waited for the first bloom. It was more exquisite than I remembered: strong lilac with deep ruby lips. So beautiful inside the little throat, speckled and glowing from the late setting sun. The bees have noticed these voluptuous flowers as well and as I was gazing at the beautiful bed of flowers a hummingbird appeared above and dove, beak down and drank the sweet nectar. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Lovely Borage

I hear the bees everywhere and wonder where they go after they collect the pollen from the raspberries, borage, snow pea flowers, sunflowers and foxglove. I nibble on the chickweed I used to curse. I taste the sour sow thistle, eat the calendula petals, I wish for a giant dandelion to grow deep in the mineral rich soil and offer it’s leaves and root for healing. The plants give of themselves, stay with us, nourish us both inside and out. We have learned to appreciate the  persistence and strength of common weeds that live in our area. They are reminder that when the going gets rough, the chamomile  will be there in the crack in the sidewalk, the dandelions will be  growing back along the fence: an army of yellow, green and white, perky and energetic. The chickweed will be tangled underneath the collards or in a dark cool corner of the yard hanging on to the soil with their strong spidery roots. The nettles will be pushing their fresh leaves through the blackberry vines full of minerals and monster healing power. It is good that we are learning to appreciate these persistent friends. Instead of fighting, just go with the flow, bless the offerings that mother earth continually offers and as needed pluck those powerhouses, and unless in flower or invasive root, feed them to the compost pile. Better yet make dandelion or chamomile tea, a purslane laced smoothie or  sautéed’ lamb’s quarters . Last Spring my former employer Emeline told me she made nettle soup , I had been wondering how to get acquainted with the wild nutritious plant and her soup made me all the more determined to get to know this notorious plant.. The following September Richard, his sister Maurine and I were picking blackberries in a park nearby and “ouch, that hurt, what was that?”,   there was  a patch of nettles growing with the blackberries we were picking. It was if it reached out to say, here I am, just what you have been looking for. The plants were flowering but I made a note to myself to return the following spring. Seven months later, on April 12th Richard and I set off with a bag, gloves, tongs and …..geez louise…no scissors. Darn Darn Darn it! Back to the car, whew I had left a knife in the glovebox.  Ready and able we approached the patch of stinging nettles only to discover that they were setting flowers.

Nettles in Flower

Unsure if they were still edible we cut a few tops, threw them in our bag and sped away. After researching a little more I found the best time to harvest is while the plants are still young, tender and not in flower. I decided to chop up the little bit we had and throw them in the compost. About two weeks later we were walking along our path to Golden Gardens and we saw a strong and interesting looking man kneeling beside some nettles! “Great nettles” we said, and our new friend proceeded to tell us about his Greek heritage and how his grandfather ate lots of nettles and was strong and healthy as Hercules (I am taking liberties here). He also told us that the Greek way to prepare them is to saute’ the greens in garlic and olive oil and to squeeze a bit of lemon over the top after cooking. Another week or two went by and I was attending my first “Herbal Remedies for the Home”  class at Dandelion Botanical Company (the most fabulous store in Seattle) packed with bulk medicinal herbs, books, oils, supplements, chocolate, bitters; all things wonderful. Right in front of me I see a little sign that says “Fresh Nettles”. Ok, I give, I am going to buy the nettles from Dandelion who I totally trust to be selling the best nettles in WA. I trek home with the bag and show Richard. We are going to do this nettle thing right now. So I get out my tongs and big bowl and some scissors and start cutting the leaves off into the bowl. Soon after Richard and I are eating our first nettles Greek style. We both agreed they were tasty, similar to spinach. I saved enough leaves to make a tea the next day which was delightful, even before the cup touched my lips I felt electricity in the air, a virtual prickly energy rush. The wilted leaves from the teapot were squeezed dry and added to the scrambled eggs the next morning. We felt satisfied and initiated. Another few days went by and we were walking on our path again and there was the Greek, near the same spot, and we told him we had finally had our nettles. As we walked away we both wondered if he was a nettle deva that only we could see; haven’t seen hide nor hair since. The other weeds we have partaken in are chickweed (which I have decided I like best eaten fresh as I wander in the garden), sow thistle, purslane, dandelion and lamb’s quarter. I have taken to nibbling my calendula petals, nasturtiums, borage flowers and parsley while wandering too. Some great advice from my  herbal studies teacher Crystal: make sure you have positively identified the plant you wish to harvest ,take only what you will eat,  leave at least one-third of the plant so it may grow again. Another important consideration  before harvesting wild plants is how much to take. Courtesy of Crystal Hamby the “One in Twenty Rule” : If there are 20 plants in an area, you should only harvest one.  Above all, ask the plant for permission and if you have any weird vibes about harvesting it, don’t take it. Give thanks to the plant for providing nourishment and medicine. From Crystal’s notes I also found that Native peoples left corn and tobacco as gifts to the plant spirits when they harvested. It is always good to be thankful for the abundance we are given. Recently Richard and I were eating dinner and it occurred to me that a prayer of gratitude  before a meal is a way to be respectful and mindful of the gifts we are given by the food on our plates, by the people in our lives, by the animals we love  and all the blessings given us. Sometimes slowing down and being mindful brings us back to the things that really matter.

Harvesting Now: strawberries, snow peas, sugar snap peas, cabbage, collards, rhubarb, lettuce, radishes, carrots, kale, swiss chard,      parsley, cilantro, rosemary, mint, chives, arugula, borage, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, calendula…

Still Planting: radishes, cilantro, carrots, lettuce, kale,

Babying: tomatoes, basil, peppers

Just Planted:  butternut, spaghetti and delicata (winter squashes)  and zucchini, yellow straight-neck and patty pan (summer squashes)

To do List: stake the tomatoes, build a pepper shelter, fertilize the leafy greens with fish emulsion, fertilize the flowering plants with a liquid organic fertilizer, stake the sunflowers

Recipe of the Week

“Smoked Salmon Burritos”

Salmon Burrito

saute’ 1/4 small onion (chopped) until soft

add one crushed garlic clove

add 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers chopped and  cook over medium heat about 3 minutes

add 1/2 cup of chopped smoked salmon and stir for one minute

turn off the heat

add 1 diced roma tomato

5 kalamata olives chopped

a dash of cayenne pepper

Heat a tortilla in a heavy skillet

add salmon filling, arugula or the leafy green of choice and cheese (I like Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar)

roll up and taste something divine

Happy Planting and Happy Eating!