Nature’s Wisdom and Tuesday Snapshots

A secluded marsh on Jamestown Island.  Do you see the orbs?

A secluded marsh on Jamestown Island. Do you see the orbs?

We took a ride on the Colonial Parkway again yesterday since it was such a gorgeous day.  A federal holiday in the United States, we had spring like weather, clear skies,  and a brief respite from winter.

Sunny and 63 degrees, it felt like spring, though we are still deep in January.

Sunny and 63 degrees, it felt like spring, though we are still deep in January.

With schools, banks, post offices, and government offices closed,  many could travel to enjoy the three day weekend.  The Colonial Parkway had a busy, vacation time feel, with more visitors than we’ve seen in a very long time.  The best fishing spots were occupied with happy anglers.

We were out, again, looking for birds to photograph.  We had seen so many on Sunday, we were sure that we’d find many more in the far warmer weather on Monday.  But that was not the case.  Where have the birds gone?

The eagles' favorite trees were empty, as were their nests.

The eagles’ favorite trees were empty, as were their nests.

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This heron wading on Sunday was no where to be seen by Monday.

All the favorite eagle perching trees were empty, and we didn’t see them in the sky.  The nests looked abandoned.  No Great Blue Herons waded in the shallows, and no Black Vultures gathered around the deer carcass still lying beside the road.  We did spot two perched companionably together in the top of a nearby tree, but the great gathering had dissipated.

Only a few brave Canada geese grazed near the river on Monday afternoon.

Only a few brave Canada geese grazed near the river on Monday afternoon.

All we found was a small flock or red winged black birds, a handful of geese, and a few white gulls.  Everyone else had disappeared on this clear, bright, warm  winter day.  We think they sense the storm coming out of the north, and have moved further inland.  At the least, they have already taken shelter from the wind and snow already on its way.

The Colonial Parkway on a spring like January day saw heavy traffic from visitors.

The Colonial Parkway on a spring like January day saw heavy traffic from visitors.

This morning dawned clear and mild, but the weather front has crept ever closer as the day has worn on.  Our 60 degree temperatures yesterday afternoon will soon transform into frigid teens later tonight.   The forecasters still don’t agree on how much snow will accumulate here in Williamsburg, but snow is on the way.

Monday was a beautiful day for walking on the beach of the James River.

Monday was a beautiful day for walking on the beach of the James River.

And the birds must feel the coming change.  As the gulls had already flown in from the coast this weekend to our Jamestown marshes, so I’m sure they have moved on elsewhere by now:  Nature’s wordless wisdom in action.

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Sunset Monday afternoon as families loaded dogs and fishing equipment into their cars to head home.

One could not ask for a finer January weekend than we have just enjoyed.  Since we’ve had the opportunity to get outside and be a part of it,  I will share a few photos, which didn’t make it into other posts, in today’s Tuesday Snapshots.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Appreciating the Earth: Tuesday Snapshots

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Freshly fallen leaves rest on the Hellebores, which very soon will send up new blooms.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to “putting my hands into the Earth” to grow things.  In fact, I have vivid pre-school aged memories of planting little glass jars with dirt and grass seed “borrowed” from a bag in my dad’s workshop, just to watch it grow.  All along I’ve been happy to grow things, whether in my parents’ flower beds, in my own, or simply in jars and pots.  Some might not feel as happy as I do surrounded by growing things, but I find it peaceful to tend them and watch their growth.

Violas and Sage growing happily in the stump garden earlier this week.

Violas and Sage growing happily in the stump garden earlier this week.

At the moment, I’m doing a lot of picking up leaves and petals from the living room floor as my potted plants adjust to life indoors with dry central heat.  But, as my partner put it last night, they are surely all happy that they “won the indoors lottery” and have the opportunity to survive the winter.  The few things left outside are not as fortunate.  A few nights now in the 20s, and the remaining annuals and tender perennials have gone the way of the ginger lilies.  I am hoping the roots of some, like the Mexican Petunias and a tender milkweed survive in sheltered places, but the tops surely have not.

Camellia, "Jingle Bells" on Friday afternoon.  Frost got the flowers, but new buds will open when the weather warms.

Camellia, “Jingle Bells” on Friday afternoon. Frost got the flowers, but new buds will open when the weather warms.

The area around my kitchen sink is filled with bottles and jars of rooting cuttings.  I’ve filled the window sills, the garage, and every other available space with plants.  Once we settle into a rhythm of watering, and they adjust to the available light and air, we’ll happily share the warm house until spring settles in.

Some of the orchids look as though they’re ready to send out new blooms.  The Begonias are opening new leaves, and the Cyclamen have fresh buds.  This was the first summer I’ve managed to keep two Cyclamen growing without a period of dormancy.  A third did die back, with a little help, perhaps; and I’m hoping for signs of new growth.

A last few figs cling to the branches, even with the fig leaves gone.

A last few figs cling to the branches, even with the fig leaves gone.

It is a decidedly wintry day outside today.  We have grey skies and rain here in Williamsburg, and the reports of ice and snow are still to our west.  It was supposed to warm up today, but never made it out of the 40s.  The strange alchemy and timing of precipitation and temperature will determine whether we have ice and snow here before Friday.

We are prepared for a colder than expected winter, and hope others are prepared for that, also.  Remember that much of our weather is created in far distant places.  We are in a period of unusually active volcanoes.  On Saturday alone seven volcanoes in six different countries erupted.  This week we’ve seen eruptions in Italy, Japan, Guatamala, Indonesia, Mexico, and Vanuatu.  Over the past month or so there have also been eruptions in Kamchatka and Alaska. Seismic activity is high all over the planet, and bears watching.  Even our own volcanoes from Mt. Shasta north to Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker are having more quakes and tremors than they usually do.  Our planet is alive, and it is active.

Winter has definitely settled in here in Williamsburg.

Winter has definitely settled in here in Williamsburg.

All of that gas and ash in the atmosphere affects how much sunlight gets through,  and ultimately affects the weather.  It has a cooling effect on the planet, and can also affect patterns of precipitation.   We don’t often have night time lows in the 20s this early, but we have this year.  And so all of the plants left out of doors will have to tough it out from here on.  I’ve pulled the marginal ones up close to the house where they will get the benefit of reflected heat.  Believe it or not, some petunias made it through all of last winter, and are still blooming today.

This poem feels appropriate today, as we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on our many blessings:

There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled,
which leads to an unkown, secret place.
The old people came literally to love the soil,
and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of
being close to a mothering power.
Their teepees were built upon the earth
and their altars were made of earth.
The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.
That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of
propping himself up and away from its life giving forces.
For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply
and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of
life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

Chief Luther Standing Bear

The ground in our garden, near the ravine, on Friday.

The ground in our garden, near the ravine, on Friday.

Those of us drawn to tending gardens understand this feeling of needing to be close to the Earth and soil.  During the fall and winter we might not walk out barefoot or do much sitting on the ground, but we can still touch the Earth inside as we tend our indoor gardens.  Cooking, bringing family together, chopping wood, taking walks; all of these things can bring us the feelings Chief Luther Standing Bear describes.

And so here are this week’s Tuesday Snapshots. These are a few photos taken during the week but not used in other posts.

I hope you will enjoy them.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

“Powerful Stuff,” Epsom Salts

Like most serious gardeners, when I get a little “ding” I generally just keep on going and choose to ignore it.  That’s probably why I have absolutely no idea how I injured my thumb last week.  I get lots of dings between work in the garden and the kitchen.  They almost always heal right up and I stay in motion.

One of the best values of the home pharmacy!

One of the best values of the home pharmacy!

This thumb injury, right where the nail meets the skin, started out that way.  But, I made the cardinal mistake of working outside without gloves over the weekend.  Add in all of the dish washing, and general cleaning up, and I exposed the little nick in my skin to some nasty bacteria somewhere along the way.  It was sore on Saturday, worse on Sunday, but by yesterday it was throbbing as I typed.  And it kept getting worse.

If you’re like me, you do most of your own “doctoring” and avoid the AMA crowd whenever possible.  Trying to remember all of the home remedies for infections, I remembered Epsom Salts.  We try to keep some around all the time because it’s useful for so many things.  Well, I finally found a carton in the garage next to the Plant Tone, covered in cobwebs and potting soil.  Not exactly sterile looking.  The last time I had used it was on the roses in early summer.

The flower bed I reworked and bordered this weekend

The flower bed I reworked and bordered this weekend

Epsom salt, or Magnesium Sulfate, is not really salt at all.  Originally found at a mineral spring in Epsom, Surrey, England; it is a combination of Magnesium and Sulphate, both very healing to the body.  Epsom salt is an extremely versatile crystalline product (probably why it’s called “salts”) which enhances growth, bloom, and general vigor in many types of plants; greens your lawn; kills insects; soothes muscle aches and pains; reduces inflammation; and draws toxins out of the body.  (More uses for Epsom salts here)

By the time I realized that my whole thumb was red and throbbing, it was late in the day yesterday and I had no interest in heading to the store or the urgent care.  A long soak in a bowl of hot water and dissolved Epsom salts finally brought some relief.  Temporary relief that is.

I went on the offensive with mega doses of vitamin C, topical antibiotic cream, and even some colloidal silver; which was the antibiotic of choice before the pharmaceutical industry made so many  specific antibiotics available.  A full assault on the nasty microbes attacking my thumb at least kept the infection from spreading any more, and we got a few hours of sleep here and there.

You can feel the pain draining away during an Epsom salt soak.  Whether we’re talking tired muscles, infected finger, or any of a number of other maladies; Epsom salt is a powerful healing agent.  It can penetrate through the skin, across the cell membranes, to bring healing and draw out toxins.  Soaking for 20 to 30 minutes, every four hours or so, made a huge difference.

Snapdragons from Homestead Garden Center, grown by the Patton family, moved into their new bed on Saturday morning.

Snapdragons from Homestead Garden Center, grown by the Patton family, moved into their new bed on Saturday morning.

Given no other option, the finger might have healed up in a few days with the healing protocol I’d started.   But I’ve read too many stories lately about fast moving infections, and by this afternoon decided to pay the price and get the script.  The doc was great, except for the forceps under the nail to make sure nothing was still lodged there.   AND, she told me that she would have suggested the Epson salts soak had I not already initiated it.  So, with the antibiotic coursing through my system I’m beginning to feel better, but will keep soaking the thumb until at least tomorrow.

Do you have Epsom salts in your pantry?  It is basic equipment for a serious gardener.  It, along with pure water, is as good for the gardener as it is for the garden!

What have I learned from this little misadventure?  It always pays to reflect and tote up the lessons to carry forward.

Newly planted snapdragons

Newly planted snapdragons

1.  Always wear gloves when working in the garden.  Protect the skin from nicks, and the nicks from the nasties in the soil.

2.  Put a clean bandage and an alcohol wipe in the gardening vest, right next to the pocket knife.  I’ve never done that, but will going forward.

3.  Don’t ignore little injuries hoping they’ll go away.  I don’t mean to sound like a wimp, but a little more care on the front end could have prevented this infection.

4.  Spring for two packages of Epsom salts.   Leave one in the garage with the plant foods, but keep another one in the pantry for healing.

Tonight I’m still a nine fingered typist, but managed to get a few photos of the garden before dusk.

Here are Tuesday’s Snapshots from the forest garden.

Stay well, be careful in the midst of all that gardening fun, and keep the first aid kit well stocked!

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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