Tag Archives: Gardening

Herbal Lore of the British Isles–April Workshop


herb gardenMy Herbal Lore Workshop for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers is also open to others. For more info and to register visit the link. The workshop runs from April 3-30, and will be interesting and informative. Although the focus of the herbs are those used historically in the British Isles, if a question arises about Native American plants, I can help out there, too. Be an active participant or a lurker. The material can be saved for later use. Lively interaction does make the class more fun, however.

Regarding homework, there isn’t any. If  you incorporate one or more of herbs into a scene you’ve written and would like feedback, I invite you to share it in the broader group, or email it to me privately and I’ll tell you if I think the herb choice and use seems right. My role is to offer information and inspiration.

Visit: http://celtichearts.org/herbal-lore-of-the-british-isles/

Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment. ~Ellis Peters


Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn. ~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

(Crocus and violas in the garden blooming now)

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.
~Julian Grenfell

I wonder if the Daffodil
Shrinks from the touch of frost,
And when her veins grow stiff and still
She dreams that life is lost?
Ah, if she does, how sweet a thing
Her resurrection day in spring!
~Emma C. Dowd, “Daffodil and Crocus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

Her fairies climb the bare, brown trees,
And set green caps on every stalk;
Her primroses peep bashfully
From borders of the garden walk,
And in the reddened maple tops
Her blackbird gossips sit and talk.
~Hannah R. Hudson, “April,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1868

(Grecian wind flowers)

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

…the sweet wildflower breath of spring… ~Terri Guillemets

I hear the passing echoes of winter and feel the warming spring on my face. ~Terri Guillemets

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. ~Bern Williams

(Snowdrops blooming in the garden)

Spring Is When the Meadowlark Sings and It’s Singing


Signs of spring are everywhere on the farm. February is like an erratic March. So was January. We’ve had little real winter. Almost no snow. Our weather blows mild then cold then warm again, even balmy before the wind cuts through us once more. The geese are in hyper fussy mating/nesting mode. Don’t even try to talk to them now. Fuzzy pussy willows will soon burst into full-blown catkins. Possibly today. I’m calling it. Spring is here. I’ve got pea seed and early greens ready to plant.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Meadowlark, Eastern MeadowlarkBack to the meadowlark, my goal is to ever actually see one of these elusive birds again. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be such a challenge, with our meadows and all. Once or twice, I’ve glimpsed a yellow flash and spotted the bird perched on a fence post before it flew. Mostly, they hide in the grass and skim away to another spot before I get a good look, calling all the while from various positions in the meadow.

Several years ago, daughter Elise and I were determined to track down the evasive songster and take its picture, like photographing fairies. We tenaciously followed its calls, even climbed over the fence into the neighbor’s pasture and picked our way along the little creek that flows from our pond, but never caught up with that bird, or birds. There may have been more than one taunting us. Unless I catch another rare glimpse, I must content myself with their beautiful trills. Birds like this need tall grasses and untidy hedge rows for nesting. Bear that in mind in your own yard and garden. Keeping everything trim and cultivated robs our feathered friends of habitat. It’s also a good excuse for a less than perfectly kept landscape. A little wilderness here and there is a good thing.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in spring“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

***Images of spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by my mom, Pat Churchman.

I bought the image of the meadowlark. Sigh.

Happy Boots, Happy Self


happy-garden-farm-bootsI’ve been thinking about my garden/farm boots a lot lately, partly because I haven’t ordered a new pair in two years, and daughter Alison is also debating this question. We’re fans of the colorful spirit-lifting kind. She’s torn about which pair to get. Initially, you can get away with one pair of oh, say yellow polka dot boots for everyday and town wear, if you hose them off after feeding the goats, chickens, etc. But it doesn’t take long before the gloss is gone.  Mud and manure take their toll, which leaves you really needing two pairs. I’ve actually accumulated three of the same happy print over the years. They’ve held up well, but one pair has formed a small hole in the sole–easily detected when wearing them in the wet–and all have lost their shine. No zip left. Question is, do I get another identical pair because they’re so swell, or risk a new pattern?

My son-in-law asked why not just wear plain black, which better endure and are what most men favor. My farmer husband and son do. Alison said her soul would be just as dark while wearing them. Where’s the fun in that?

What it gets down to is having the money to purchase alternate pairs of the same puddle splashing, mud slogging, critter feeding (and other stuff) boots. It can seem rather frivolous when watching your budget. However, when my last new pair were still fresh enough for town, I wore them to get allergy shots to the delight of nurses and patients, and cheered passersby at the grocery store. I brought joy and light with me wherever I went/skipped. There’s far more to boots than you may realize. Children know this.

Ask a kid if they want yellow/pink polka dots, bright flowers, happy animals, or back boots and see.

“Everyone chases happiness, not noticing that happiness is at their heels” – Bertolt Brecht (Literally, if you’re wearing the boots.)

One of my current glossless pairs pictured above. For those eager to know, these are called Sloggers and sold at Amazon. Isn’t everything?

For the Love of Pansies, Violas, and Violets


“I pray, what flowers are these? The pansy this, O, that’s for lover’s thoughts.” ~George Chapman

vintage violas from seed

It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”William Carlos Williams

“Heart’s ease! One could look for half a day Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow, That gave this gentle name.” ~Mary Howitt

“Who are the violets now

That strew the lap of the new-come spring?”  ~Shakespeare: Richard II

violas

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you. “  ~Edward Payson Rod

The modern day pansies are descendants of the wild viola tricolor also called heartsease. There are many nicknames for this plant that include: love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you, three-faces-under-a-hood, godfathers and godmothers, flower o’luce, banwort, jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me. We have always called the smaller violas johnny-jump-ups.

Violas, violets, and pansies are my absolute all-time favorite flowers. Though admittedly, I have many favorites. I often start violas and pansies from seed because I can get more varieties this way, but I also purchase the plants.  I prefer the miniature violas to the larger pansies but love both. To my delight many of the smaller varieties self-seed freely. I’m not surprised they have been used in love potions. An old belief is that if the flowers were placed on the closed eyelids of a sleeping person they would fall in love with the first person they saw upon awakening.

Viola_odorata

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:

“On the Isle of Skye, whey in which violets had been boiled was given to feverish patients as a cooling drink. Heartsease, also known in Scotland as love-idleness, was used to treat epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and eczema.”

Bog violet was said to be a sacred plant on Skye.

Ancient Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”

VIOLAS or HEARTSEASE

From A Modern Herbal:

“The flowers (1/4 to 1 1/4 inch across) vary a great deal in colour and size, but are either purple, yellow or white, and most commonly there is a combination of all these colours in each blossom. The upper petals are generally most showy in colour and purple in tint, while the lowest and broadest petal is usually a more or less deep tint of yellow. The base of the lowest petal is elongated into a spur, as in the Violet.

The flower protects itself from rain and dew by drooping its head both at night and in wet weather, and thus the back of the flower and not its face receives the moisture. The Pansy is one of the oldest favourites in the English garden and the affection for it is shown in the many names that were given it. The Anglo-Saxon name was Banwort or Bonewor

Its common name of Pansy (older form ‘Pawnce,’ as in Spenser) is derived from the French pensées, the name which is still used in France. ‘Love in Idleness’ is still in use in Warwickshire. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love-charm in the Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Medicinal Action and Uses: The Pansy has very similar properties to the Violet. It was formerly in much repute as a remedy for epilepsy, asthma and numerous other complaints, and the flowers were considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, from which may have arisen its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.

violas (2)

From Meanings and Legends of Flowers:

“The monks of the Middle Ages called ~Viola tricolor~ common in Europe, the ~Herb of the Trinity (herba trinitatis) because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name ~Heartsease~ stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple ~Viola odorata~ native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.”

“Violets are also considered to be funeral flowers. It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery.”

arrangement of violets in an old lavender bottleInteresting regarding Napoleon Bonaparte and violets: 

Napoleon Bonaparte loved violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napolean sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine’s tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died. The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed Corporal Violet or Le Pere Violet meaning the little flower that returns with spring.

“Heart’s ease of pansy, pleasure or thought, Which would the picture give us of these? Surely the heart that conceived it sought Heart’s ease.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” ~Gertrude S. Wister

Images from our garden.

The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats


We’ve had a lovely garden season this year with rains enough not to need the sprinkler. This may change, as higher temps are in the forecast and no imminent showers, but weather can turn around overnight, so we shall see. Meanwhile, we’ve been blessed and I’m sharing July pics of the farm and garden with you.

A parade of poppies by Elise(A parade of poppies by daughter Elise)

_MG_0679_copyright (1)I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir (1838–1914)

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. ~Henry David Thoreau

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. cummings  (Cone flowers by Elise)

Good heavens, of what uncostly material is our earthly happiness composed… if we only knew it. What incomes have we not had from a flower, and how unfailing are the dividends of the seasons. ~James Russell Lowell

poppies and alyssum by EliseI know the thrill of the grasses when the rain pours over them.
I know the trembling of the leaves when the winds sweep through them.
I know what the white clover felt as it held a drop of dew pressed close in its beauteousness.
I know the quivering of the fragrant petals at the touch of the pollen-legged bees.
I know what the stream said to the dipping willows, and what the moon said to the sweet lavender.
I know what the stars said when they came stealthily down and crept fondly into the tops of the trees. ~Muriel Strode, “Creation Songs”

(Poppies, sweet alyssum, and bachelor’s buttons by Elise)

July 5th evening light in between rain storms

(Grazing cows in the meadow taken by Beth)

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. ~Rachel Carson

Happiness flutters in the air whilst we rest among the breaths of nature. ~Kelly Sheaffer

barn in sunset                                              (Barn against sunset by Beth)

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere. ~Vincent Van Gogh

All I want is to stand in a field
and to smell green,
to taste air,
to feel the earth want me,
Without all this concrete
hating me.
~Phillip Pulfrey, from Love, Abstraction and other Speculations, http://www.originals.net

I can still smell the green of the grass crushed beneath me. Feel the damp of the dew on my elbows. Hear the birdsong. ~Kristina Turner, The Self-Healing Cookbook, 2002, originally published 1987

Garden shot by Elise in July

(our garden by Elise)

God’s handiwork is all about me,
As I sit on the porch and gaze
At the far-off peaks of the mountains
That are touched with the sun’s bright rays.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “In the Mountains” (1940s)

farm pond with cow(Our meadow with pond and hills beyond by Beth)

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. ~John Burroughs

A setting sun still whispers a promise for tomorrow. ~Jeb Dickerson, jebdickerson.com

Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
~William Wordsworth

Brilliant coreopsis and Queen Ann's Lace by Elise(Coreopsis Tinctoria and Queen Anne’s Lace by Elise)

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough to pay attention to the story. ~Linda Hogan

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. ~Henry David Thoreau

morning garden along the road(Bee Balm, white Phlox and other flowers in front garden by Beth)

All Things Bright and Beautiful


The Shenandoah Valley is one of the loveliest places in the world. I call it ‘the Shire’, for good reason. Given the darkness spreading in America, my aim is to share the simple goodness and beauty that still exists in my green valley.

“God made the country, and man made the town.”  ~William Cowper, The Task

Farm Pond with Geese(Image of our farm pond by daughter Elise)

“To a brain wearied by the din of the city, the clatter of wheels, the jingle of street cars, the discord of bells, the cries of venders, the ear-splitting whistles of factory and shop, how refreshing is the heavenly stillness of the country!” ~Olive Thorne Miller, 1895

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Cosmos, sunflowers, and barn.jpg1(image by Beth of old red barn that’s now white with cosmos and sunflowers)

Daylily wet with rain(Daylily and larkspur wet with rain by Beth)

“Anybody can be good in the country.”  ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

“It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something.” ~Charles Dickens

butterfly in evening garden by Elise(Silver Checkerspot Butterfly in Garden by Elise)

“The sunrise and sunset of each Summer’s day,
The song of the birds and the flowers, so fair,
And all the beauties of Nature everywhere.” ~~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “A Leaf from Memories’ Book” (1940s)

“As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration.  I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.”  ~John Adams

Elise herding geese(Elise herding geese–image by Beth)

Geese in front yard.jpg1(Geese in my front yard–image by Beth out the second story window)

“Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid nature.”
~William Cowper

“The city, no matter how small, is corrupt and unrepentant, while the sun shines brighter in the country, making people more wholesome.”
Lori Lansens, The Girls

Another bright corner(Bright garden nook by Beth)

Ferny asparagas covered with dew(Ferney asparagus and flowers covered with rain in the early morning by Beth)

“Let yourself fall in love with something that simply makes you happy. If there’s a place for it in your heart, there’s a place for it in your home.” ~Mary Randolf Carter

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

garden, yard, and old barn.jpg1(Garden, yard, and old barn)