Friday, May 21, 2010

More Good Medicine

Yesterday morning Raymond came out to the farm. He helped the girls wrangle goats then joined us in the garden. He continued the hard work of making raised beds. Ken joined us not too long after and joined me in the mission to eradicate the healthy stand of dock and plantain. He even brought his own pitchforks.

The day was glorious. Sun shone brilliantly. The humidity was gone. The whole gang got to work, weeding, shoveling, even Nora worked by serving us mason jars of cool water.

We covered a great variety of topics. Movies, sci-fi, music, poetry, different cultures and their gardening practices. Ken taught us the name of many weeds and bugs and even helped us identify bird calls.

I have many favorite things.

Working in the garden with friends helping is one of my favorite things.

At first the task seemed insurmountable. After a flooded summer last year and a late start this year, the many varieties of dock and plantain had taken quite a hold on 3/4 of the garden. Those pests are truly amazing. We dug up roots that were over a foot long. Plantain has a mass of thin roots, like a wig. Each little root is thin like a thread, but the large mass works together quite efficiently, gripping the soil. No rain shower is going to wash away a plantain plant.

We think plantain is wonderful. It is the best remedy for bee sting we have ever used. If stung, one simply chews up a broad leaf of the plant and then applies the slobbery green mass to the bite. Kind of gross, but it works!

Plantain in the garden, however, is not quite so nice. When you see the root system, you can quickly understand why no other plants can compete.

Yellow dock, burdock, all the other varieties of dock offer wonderful herbal medicines as well. The root can be made into a tincture or tea that serves as a liver cleanser.

We have yet to find use for 6 or more wheelbarrow loads of the stuff. Dock roots are not a mass like plantain. They are long, like a skinny, knobby parsnip. A witch's hand, with pointy fingers, holding on to the soil for dear life. It is hard to pull up dock by hand. Inevitably the plant breaks off, leaving the root to send forth a new plant, which will then bear thousands upon thousands of tiny seeds that do their part to ensure the survival of this plant.

Ken and I worked like a machine with our pitchforks, loosening up the soil, yanking, tossing, digging up stubborn roots. I felt like Eowyn of Rohan, the warrior woman in Lord of the Rings, fighting the Witch King of Angmar. Insurmountable odds, but somehow destined for this battle against the evil invaders threatening to destroy the food source for my children.

Okay, okay, so I have a very vivid imagination.

It helps if you have to work for many hours out in a garden digging up difficult roots.

A break brought us into the cool house for a semi-quick lunch of frittata and eggplant. The eggplant wasn't very seasonal, but was requested as a treat by Thomas. Unfortunately for us, most of the kids like eggplant, especially if I roast it with garlic and olive oil. The frittata was made with our goat cheese and a handful of greens from the garden, sauteed first with onion and garlic.

Many more hours were spent in the garden after lunch. Felt like years. I dreamed of the wonderful rich soil we would have when those piles of dock and plantain were eventually composted.

We were rewarded with a delicious supper of rib eyes from Moose, last year's steer, and some broccoli and a salad. And Ken and Cynthia's delicious red wine. And doubly rewarded because Kevin came over and offered to mow the front lawn. And Jason came over with a load of wood to help us get ready for winter. It was fun to eat with friends and enjoy the satisfaction of tired muscles sitting down.

I don't know when I have felt so tired.

I couldn't read, write or think.

But I was certainly grateful.

As I baked today, the girls were able to plant our tomato plants, peppers and eggplant out in the lovely new rows.

This evening, after a big day of helping Larry clean out the barn and do several other farm chores, Patrick planted a couple of rows of green beans. Thomas eradicated a few more plantain plants. Kids had rehearsal in the barn for their drama class. Sunday is the big day for them to do their monologues and poetry readings. (Their home school drama group is called "The Full Circle Players" directed by Rachel.) Nora and Rose worked on their mud hole.

The battle is over for today. A new one awaits tomorrow. Bull frog croaks, calling out. Stream gurgles. Peepers peep. Fireflies flutter around the ridge. The breeze is gentle and cool. I thought we might get a shower today, but no rain. Children are settling in and so am I. The guineas are making their final squawks.

Time to go to bed. So glad that the three am start is ending at 9:30pm instead of midnight, like last season.

When we pulled up the weeds, I was thinking about how God has intertwined our lives with so many other dear friends, all meshed together, like those powerful root systems. That strong mesh is making it possible for us to remain upright during this stormy season. Not easily yanked out or blown away.

My prayer for the many people in our lives is that they would all have such a terrific root system of friends and neighbors. What a blessing.

I go to bed thankful. See you tomorrow at your local farmer's market!

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