Monday, April 21, 2008

Field Guide Installment #1: April

We haven't named our 10 acre morsel of the world. We have decided that we have to become acquainted with it's personality and temperament before this can be achieved. Perhaps this will require an entire revolution of the Earth around the Sun with close observation in each season. Until then, it has been an immeasurable serendipitous thrill to explore our "territory." Discovering each newly blooming flower is a launching of a lifelong camaraderie knowing that these plants will be annual harbingers of the coming warm weather. I have decided to blogument each topographic unearthing and adventures on a monthly basis.

Common Buttercup

(Ranunculus acris)

The common Buttercup or "little frog, This flower is acrid and not the first choice of browsing animals. It can cause blisters and digestive irritations. I have quickly learned that almost everything that grows on our land exists because it is inedible to deer. The buttercups shiny look comes from a additional layer of cells just beneath the surface, giving it that just polished appearance. The Nez Perce of the Pacific Northwest call the buttercup 'Coyotes Eyes'.

According to legend, Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and catching them again when Eagle snatched them. Unable to see, Coyote made eyes from the buttercup.

After Ansel learned that he would probably get a stomachache from eating a buttercup, he has told me on several occasions, "My tummy hurts, but I didn't swallow a buttercup."

Satin-flower/ Grass Widow
Olsynium inflatum
there are masses of these flowers blanketing our slopes. Corey plucked a small vase of them while I was napping on my birthday. I can look out my kitchen window and see thousands of these blossoms peppering the hillside. They appear so fragile and short-lived, I was sure that they would come and go in just a few days. It has been three weeks however, and they are still going strong. Just a reminder that you shouldn't judge a flower by its willowy stem.

common mullien (Verbascum thapsus)

These leaves look and feel like velvet (not velour or veloux which I detest) There is a smidgen of controversy as to whether or not these plants are considered a noxious weed and I will update you in subsequent field guides as to our personal opinion. Corey seems to think they are full of charisma. These plants will grow long flowering stalks in the summer that die and remain stalwartly dead all winter. I personally found them a little aesthetically ob-noxious until I did some research and learned that they are a magical plant. You will all soon be camped out in our woods begging for a bestowal of even just a portion of the power of the mullein.
Mullein has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments.
It was first recommended 2000 years ago against pulmonary diseases, and thus has remained one of its primary uses, especially against cough and croup. Leaf or herbal teas were used for expectoration, consumption, dry cough, bronchitis, sore throat and hemorroids. Leaves were also smoked against pulmonary ailments. Oil from the flowers was used against catahrrs, colics, earaches, frostbite, eczema, warts, boils, carbuncles and chilblains. We all suffer from chilblains now and then, don't we?

The best news of all is that the Mullein has been linked to witches and the plant was also widely held to ward off curses and evil spirits. The flowers provide dyes of bright yellow or green, and have been used for hair dye. The dried leaves and hair were made into candles , or put into shoes to help with insulating them. The dried stems were also dipped into wax to make torches.

Needless to say, we now have our medicinal arsenal pretty much well taken care of. No more hoarding and stocking up on torches and hair dye.

Paper Wasp

(Polistesfont> Hymenopterafont)


Emmy received her first hymenoptera sting last week...in her own bedroom. These beautiful critters keep finding their way in and subsequently dying. I haven't seen as many this week and I am hoping that the warmer weather has been keeping them happy outdoors.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs

Leptoglossus Occidentalis

These bugs prey on seeds of coniferous trees and are considered minor tree pests. They do not bite or sting . They use their little beaks to stab and extract the sap from the trees. I find a few of these in my house every day. I know that they are harmless, but they still catch me by suprise. In reality, I have to remind myself that we are the intruders.
pending identificationpending identification
identification pending
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
We cannot take a walk without sighting groups of these graceful animals. When they leap, their fluffy white tails look like peace flags. I hope they know that we come in peace. I once experienced twinges of guilt when I disturbed these creatures. However, we recently visited the Hogle Zoo(I mean the Abu Garub for animals)and the staff brought a hawk in to scare the monkeys. They explained that it was beneficial to the monkeys and termed it "enrichment". Now that I am more informed, I know that I am truly enriching the deer when they scramble at the sight of me.


Deer Tick
Ixodes Scapularis

Unfortunately with the deer come these nasty bloodsucking hitchhikers that apparantly only find my hemoglobin to be at all appetizing. I find at least one thumbing a ride every day. I read that Guinea Fowl can eradicate two acres a year of the nasty vermin. 5 years and we could be tick-free! The down side is that the hens are extremely loud and may disturb our neighbors. We are the only family sans canine and so I don't think we can receive any legitimate complaints.


Fort Salty (in Progress)

I think it appropriate to the field guide to track the progress of our fort. Ansel provided the nomenclature.


4 comments:

Joal said...

Vanessa,

This post is a good idea. We have really enjoyed walking around our little hill, looking at blooming flowers. I have been glad to know that the flowers and plants will keep coming back, that the trees will watch over us as long as we are here. It is kind of thrilling.

Sharon said...

I'm so excited to be coming to see your private wonderland!

Lee Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Grant said...

WOWSERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I want lyme disease too!!!!!!!