Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Time

AFTER several years of this, I have got over the grossness of the pumpkin goop that you have to pull out by hand, but I don't think I'll ever actually enjoy this part of the carving. Nevertheless, a beautiful Jack o'Lantern came into being, and the seeds became a crispy snack. Other pumpkins became pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup. Mmmh!

Jack o'lantern, jack o'lantern
You are such a funny sight
As you sit there at my window
Looking out at the night.

You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a sturdy vine.
Now you are a jack o'lantern
May your candle light shine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Herbal Lesson

"There were once two mice who set out on a journey. They were hungry and thirsty, and were happy to find some dandelion and wood sorrel to munch on. A little while on, one mouse was bitten by a wasp! Luckily, they found some plantain nearby, so he chewed up a leaf and applied it to his bite. Within a short time, the sting went away. They continued on their way. Later, the other mouse felt a cold coming on so made a tea from echinacea and soon stopped sneezing. That night, as they made camp, the mice saw a grandmother elder tree. She had made syrup from her berries and offered it to the mice. She said that if they respected plants, plants would send their healing powers to them. "

This is an abbreviated version of a beautiful and enlightening hands-on introduction to herbalism for preschoolers, led by a friend. Later, Emma looked for all the herbs we had talked about in our garden - and found several.

"We must take our children into the woods and introduce them to the plants and teach them of their connection to the earth. In instilling in our children a respect for plant medicine, we not only care for their tender bodies but help pass along the seeds of a tradition that is as old as human life itself."

- Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wild Insects

WE'VE come across some interesting insect life in our back garden: first, a little bug that looks somewhat like a ladybird in size and shape, only it's brown and squared off at its tail end. This turns out to be a bean plataspid or kudzu beetle, a new arrival to Georgia that feeds on kudzu. Plenty of that around - not in our garden but close by. The beetles sit mostly in our vegetable patch - particularly the sweet peppers - and huddle in twos or more. They're apparently quite a threat to agriculture, but they don't seem to have wreaked too much havoc on our little garden so we've let them be.

The next discovery I first thought was a fungus - threads handing from a dead pine needle suspended in a tree. But after much research, this turns out to be lacewing eggs. They are laid on hair like filaments, said to prevent the larvae from cannabalizing each other. The larvae are so voracious that they have been considered for biological insect control. Curious!

The final, less pleasant, find was a nest of thousands of little black flies. I have yet to identify them, but they looked like fruit flies and swarmed all around us at dusk. The nest was around the base of a tree and was a seething mass of emerging tiny flies. Creepy and crawly, to be sure!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beanpods, Acorns and Autumn Finds

WE'VE had so much fun collecting nature items this Autumn and finding different ways to use them. Acorn people, leaf fairies and crowns, doll food from nuts and berries, pinecone animals.

One of our most surprising finds was a gigantic seed pod. We've still not managed to identify it, but it is about 30cm long! It was used in many different ways; I believe it was its role as tractor ramp that caused it to finally give in and beg to be returned to the earth.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Memories of Kiawah

WHILE Grandma visited, we spent a few days at the beach in one of the loveliest spots on the coast. An island resort, this area is also dedicated to nature conservation and has strict regulations on anything that could disturb the peace or ecology of the island. Our rental house backed up to a narrow inlet, where we could watch crabs scuttling out of the sand, elegant snowy egrets fishing and raccoon tracks in the mud. Glorious sunsets, sandy beaches, mysterious marshland, salty air and sparkling waves.

No-one welcomes the loss of an unborn baby, but if it had to happen, I'm glad it was here. I'd like to think he or she caught a glimpse of this beautiful place as they returned to heaven.