Through the Year
I've been reading a lot lately about the benefits of being outdoors. As a gardener and owner of a farm, I spend a portion of each day outside - whether I want to or not. The plants and animals need to be tended to, and so I bundle up in the winter and venture out. I am also inclined, in order to get some aerobic exercise, to walk in nearby woods, rather than on a treadmill or on the sidewalks down my street. During the time I spend outdoors, I find myself contemplating nature, organizing my thoughts and generally focusing on breathing in the greeness by which I find myself surrounded.
Throughout the centuries, man has looked to plants to cure what ails him, as well as to keep him hale and hearty. As far back as the Babylonians in 4000 BC and the Egyptians in 2000 BC, man has also been interested in retrieving vitality and rejuvenation, and turned to the plant kingdom to restore his youth, and sexual prowess. The search for aphrodisiacs - those agents which stimulate the sexual appetite - has included some exotic herbs, spices and foods that are supposed to restore vigor and increase libido.
Another year to celebrate and begin anew. Janus, the Roman god, was depicted with two faces, one looking to the past, the other to the future. He is often thought of as marking transition, between seasons, years, and other portals. It is fitting that our first month of our year be named for him. This is the time we look back over the past year, and also to the coming one, reflecting on our pluses and minuses, and hopes for a better year ahead. I like this poem from Thomas Hood -
And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
Holiday decorations are springing up everywhere. It seems that it begins earlier and earlier each year. Most of us take pleasure in decorating our homes, especially with wonderfully scented evergreens. In doing so, we are keeping alive ancient traditions and ensuring that only good spirits will share our space.
A tingling, misty marvel
Blew hither in the night,
And now the little peach trees
Are clasped in frozen light.
Upon the apple branches
An icy film is caught,
With trailing threads of gossamer
In pearly patterns wrought.
The autumn sun, in wonder,
Is gayly peering through
This silver-tissued network
Across the frosty blue.
The weather vane is fire-tipped,
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here-
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizing'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock-
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
As a gardener, I spend a lot of time outside, all through the year. April through October, though, are the months when I am always out and about, planting, weeding, harvesting, weeding, tidying, weeding - you get the picture.So I am perhaps more in tune with the weather than I might be if I spent more time inside. I can't always say that I can accurately predict the weather, but sometimes I get it right. This is most likely due to watching the sky, and observing the plants and animals. For instance, if I am bothered by biting mosquitoes during the day, I know that rain is coming.
One day in the last week or so, I noticed, or more accurately, felt, a change in the air. It was a hint of fall weather, just a whisper, really, but it was there. The garden is growing and an abundant harvest is at hand. The cucumbers, beans and summer squash are numerous, and the tomatoes are starting to come in. the small crop of ornamental wheat I'm growing is showing its amber waves, and I am reminded of the passing of the year.
This year, the International Herb Association's Annual Meeting and Conference was held in Corning, NY. A mere six hour drive for me - for a change. This year's conference was, as usual, exciting, informative and most of all, fun. The conference started with a tour on Friday, and we began the day at Finger Lakes Distillery. This small distillery produces vodka, gin, grappa and liqueurs - all from grapes. They try to use as many local suppliers as possible, too. The tour of the distillery took us by vats of bubbling mash that gave off the warm, yeasty smell of fermentation.
Both for exercise and mental health, I have been walking faithfully in the woods near my home, almost every day. Perhaps it is because I went to Nature Training School as a child, but I want to know the names of all the plants I encounter as I traipse through the forest. Many names I know, from that long ago training, and I learn more each time I walk and notice a plant I hadn't really "seen" before. Upon returning home, I look to my various resources to try and identify the newest plants that have captured my attention.