Friday, July 12, 2013

The Bee Sting

Worked out in the lavender field all day. Pleasant enough work, a slight breeze, full sun, and being sprayed by water that was headed to my plantlings. Gratifying work of the last two days. I know how to do it, I use parts on hand - reconfiguring,  'Macgivering' (remember the show?) Results are obvious. Peace in the heart, comfort knowing they will all get just what they need. Harvest will be on in a week or so, always delightful. The English variety is ready. After finishing up all work, I set to cutting a few bouquets. I have gone and forgot my glove, and should have listened to my intuition. This is dangerous, it said.
I have sawed thru my forefinger a number of times with the serrated japanese grass knife, so now always wear a glove. But today, it was a blessed honey bee. Not the knife...Honey bees have been so spare this year it was a heartbreak to find her stinger lodged in the first digit, middle finger of my left hand. Sorry, sweet, little bee.
Shit, I think to myself. I jump on the long board. My lavender oil is in the truck. It's a 700 foot long driveway that the lavender flanks. The long board saves me a lot of time. I race all the way to the winery. They are an hour from hosting their weekly wine tasting. After dripping lavender oil on the sting, I search for english plantain I know is in every lawn-she's a poison extractor - chew it up, apply as poultice. I go inside after feeling very itchy all of a sudden, and some swelling of my face. I tell the hostess, 'I am suffering a reaction to a bee sting, and I need to get in a cold water bath.' I throw my clothes off and note red welts and hives. All the crooks, knees, elbows, hips...the lower half of my face feels like its going to blow out my upper lip. The inside of my ears itch?! Weird. It was intuition that said get in the cold bath. I listened this time. I have no anti-histamine, neither does the farm. Why am I having a reaction? I refuse to believe, as all else, that now I am allergic. No, not an option.
After 20 minutes laying supine in the icy bath, I know I have to move, the room will fill up soon. I don't want anybody to see my swollen face. There is a lot of heat in my body.
I drive down canyon, stop to check out a landscape design job (my other hat,) and then walk the dog in the adjacent park. I'm having a little trouble with wheezing breath. I get in the creek with the dog, submerge my feet and hands up past my wrists. Once downtown I remember I must pick up a check for the last landscape job. Then, no question, I must deposit it, stop the hemorrhaging. Then I go to the store to by some medicine. The clerk has to help me, I can't concentrate, forgot my reading glasses, can't see the print.
It took only a half hour for the medicine to kick in. Wow! I don't ever take anything but Bayer aspirin. I felt loopy as hell.
Later, I have a conversation with a yogini friend. After explaining my symptoms, and then where I got stung, she offers up the meridians of Chinese medicine. The middle finger goes to all the lymph nodes (crooks), and direct relationship to the heart. Yogini says that the point I was stung is  the explanation for the adverse affect. All last week, and especially yesterday, my peri-menopause bestowed on me the sort of heart palpitations you can feel in your throat like running from real danger. Well, it doesn't seem to be bothering me today...
All evening, looking at my swollen finger, feeling how hot it is, all I can do is wonder at the mighty power of one small bee...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Women who came before

I have to laugh, and maniacally, to keep from cryin'. I laugh, wondering what the hell my neighbors must think of me...something like; what is that crazy bitch up to now...
I had 55 ton of gravel delivered; it was part of some grant funding that I was awarded. Unfortunately the delivery driver wouldn't take it over my ditch bridge, and I don't blame him. It's kind of a funky bridge, thanks to the last contractor that was here. He sawed off the edges real close, making it a little slim for most big rigs.
Anyway, so this gravel pile, which will be used to mulch my impending lavender plantation is only about 2 football fields away, down one hill, across a swale and up another hill from where I had envisioned it being put. Had it been put there, I could have been more than happy wheel barrowing it, bit by bit, down hill to cover my 8 rows which are 100 feet long each, even if it took me all summer. But now, this conundrum of getting it - over there...
My 1940 Ford 9N tractor is a fine machine. I dragged an ancient one bottom plow thru 100 year old alfalfa to create this hill that will be blanketed in mature lavender plants. I mow pathways all about the place for the dog and I to walk about. The only problem with it is, it has no bucket-no front end loader. Which up until now, has not been a problem. I made an old fashioned stone boat from the hood of a derelict small pickup I have on site. With the tow bar attaching it to the tractor arms, I can load it with heavy things and drag it to Hell's half acre. But to put the gravel on it, 10 scoops at a time is not efficient. I really want to see this project through to completion. So I got the clever idea to hitch up the little box trailer that belongs to the riding lawn mower my wasband left in his wake. I bought one new tire, the other held air. I waited for the day and her heat wave to subside. It was 92 degrees; too hot for shoveling gravel.
I put the tire on, I hitch it up, drive it over my funky bridge. I back it up, turning the tractor's steering wheel the opposite way, and nudge the trailer right into the pile. I throw about 50 shovel fulls into it. And I wonder if she'll hold. Throw the shovel on, put her in gear, take it real easy cuz she looks a little squirrely. I get half way across the bridge and the arm of the trailer bends like aluminum foil. I'd really like to get the full trailer at least off the bridge. The contractors are coming first thing in the morning to install the new solar panel which will move water thru irrigation tubing (all part of the grant funding) and this is the only way across to the job site. But the arm of the trailer disintegrates before my eyes. The box full of gravel, sits back, ass end on the bridge, slapping its knee and is having a good laugh. The arm of it is now a stretched out, worthless gum wrapper and the bottom lip of the trailer's end gate is wedged down into the boards of the bridge. Stop pulling, I tell myself. Don't rip apart the bridge with your stubbornness. I stand there a good long while, wishing I would have listened to that little voice that wondered if she'd hold. Hello, ding bat, that was your intuition calling. Pay Attention!
This is when the laughing starts. The neighbors have been watching this all unfold from their couches, in their cozy homes, their bellies full from dinner, watching the alpen glow from the set sun. How can I be so clever and stupid all at once? I know I have less than an hour before I can't see what I'm doing for the dark. And I must make this go away so the contractors, first thing, can get to work.
I retrieve the wheel barrow. Put 10 of the 50 scoops in; wheel it the 2 football fields, not to the top of the rows, but the bottom. I dump it and spread it out. It adheres nicely to the landscape fabric I laid this spring. I like the choice of material, think it will work out fine. Just need to get it here. The 40 remaining scoops I wheelbarrow right back over to the pile, 10 scoops at a time. I can hear the neighbors turning off their TV sets; this is much more entertaining.
I grab an ice cold beer, I light a cigarette-something I only do if the day has been uncommonly difficult and walk the dog across the neighbors back 40 to the fence where there are horses.  The red tail screams at me for invading her territory at this lovely hour. We turn, head back. Think to write it all down, cuz I'm sure I'll be over it tomorrow. Hell, I'm already over it. I decide, while on the walk, that, as determined as I am to do this project, I simply am ill equipped. Either hire somebody. I refuse to let this place kill me. Hell, it ain't gonna kill me. I'm tougher than that. Think of the women homesteaders who made their way across the plains. They lived in tar paper shacks, with sod roofs. They burned cow patties for warmth in sub-zero winters because there wasn't a tree insight. They waited weeks for a neighbor man to deliver water from miles away because that was the nearest source. Sod was busted, rhubarb and lilacs, and vegetable gardens were planted! Food was put up, babies were raised, and they proved up on their land. Those babies are our parents, they are us...without those women, they who survived things way more difficult than any little trailer breaking, any pile of gravel needing to be moved or sod busted, or water carried...Well, we wouldn't be here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I've been thinking about stigmata. The Christians call it the 'wounds of Christ'.
Lately, a week before my period, my right palm itches. I have forever attributed this to there being a check in the mail. But the money has failed to show up these last couple times, and this itch is different.
This itch, when I scratch it, feels as tho I were scraping raw nerves. It hurts to scratch it so I don't. But it mystifies me.
I was raised catholic. Padre Pio even came to the cathedral in my hometown once.
Some of the ideals of that religion impressed upon me, from a young age; like the one I find missing in the godless youth being raised today, that there is something bigger, more important, more omnipotent than myself. As an adult, I have had to incorporate that ideal into my own belief system.
I was always a skeptic. Even at a young age decided, unlike my mother, or my holy, devout grandmother, that I could not be one of the sheeple. (Thank you, Lori Grannis) I had too much common sense to just give my life up for faith in the Lard, as my pappy used to say.
Just this morning I thought; what if stigmata is just a medical condition? What if it is a hormonal thing? Im in my 50th year...What if it is a nerve thing, I'm a farmer, work hard with my physical body...What if it is some chemical reaction of my make-up and the soil, or the plants. Maybe it is an accumulated thing, or a deficient one...What if it is NOT an empathetic devotion thing? What if St. Francis, the first person to be documented with the symptoms, truly was just an earth worshipping, pagan, animal loving farmer, who one day came up with these symptoms and the holy see nabbed him, threw him in a monastery and made him their poster child for the proof of the crucifixion. To solidify a cleverly crafted tale that was in dire need of substantial evidence. "You stay put, in this holy prison, and say what we tell ya, or we'll kill all of your sweet little pets, and torch your fields and poison your bees!"
What if it is just like every single other hoax the catholic church (and all religion) has pulled? Like building their great cathedrals on top of the pagan and animist sites, like placing all their religious holidays right next to all the pagan celebrations, like renaming all the idols into saints?
What if stigmata is just a rare medical condition. What if the story somehow got spun backwards and christ didn't really get 'nailed' to a cross, but this condition just added to the fantastic tale? It's happened before. Countless times...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

My coco butter, coconut oil, honey, tahini, and almond butter are all still solid, frozen. Well, okay, maybe not frozen, but not yet easy to pry from their jars. It's the 22nd of April, a week away from Beltane and it was 15 degrees here at the cabin the other night. Record cold. I drove to the town in a full blown, sideways blizzard the entire way.
We are all complaining now. Tired of wearing layers of clothing, tired of down jackets and wool socks and closed toed shoes, tired of shivering and cold extremities.
I want to play outside. I want to be sun kissed.
Daily I recite ancient Egyptian prayers to the Sun. Hail unto thee RA! Hathor, Tum, and Kephra! Beseeching the golden orb to grace us with warmth...
I listen to those who claim they won't curse the frigid temps and late snows. "We need the precip", they say with a shrug. But I don't give much credence to their words. It is my observation that winter hangs on a month later and fire season burns well into September. I had a big bonfire on Winter Solstice and could not help but wonder at the disturbingly balmy conditions of the day. This, used not to be the case. January is really the only hard month in these parts anymore. Well, and April, when you're wishin' like hell Ol' Man Winter'd just pack his bags and git gone!
Migrating birds are starving to death on their routes thru the midwest because they follow internal clocks that are aeons ancient. They don't understand why the climate has changed. We are fuckin' up this beautiful, blue swirled marble at breakneck speed.
Recently I saw the movie Oblivion. It left me thinking on many; we all live here, all Earthlings. We humans share this place, it is home, for us, all of us. Yet we are determined to fight, kill, name in the name of something as ridulous and out dated as religion, or politics. WTF? Our planet is valuable, it has fresh water and a generally lovely atmosphere. We are capable of living here in an unobtrusive manner, copacetic with the natural rhythms of Gaia, not leaving a footprint, if but a tiny one...our moon (which, in the movie had been blown apart, - disturbed me greatly to see her like that - in turn causing the earth's tectonic plates into upheaval, new mountain ranges swallowing up cities like New York,) works in concort with her. It's all connected, 'we are stardust, we are golden, snared in the devil's garden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...the whole planet is a garden! Lilith knew it...
I recently learned that Costa Rica has no military and that they spend all the money that would support a military on educating their people. Wow! Can you imagine if the good ol' U.S. of A spent our huge military gabillion/trillion dollar defecit on our education the advances we could make? Oh HELL, we are so innately irresponsible and juvenile we'd probably develop technology enough to blow up our own moon...Never mind!
Anyway, every day is Earth Day.
Thanks for listening.
Writing from my tiny, off grid cabin, somewhere 'neath jagged peaks in Montana...
Peace out!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Useful Information

• To stay ahead of a hangover, try to drink at least twice as many glasses of water as the number of drinks consumed. 4 drinks/8 glasses of water. For best results, you will have to be diligent through out the night. You may not get a solid 8 hours of sleep but you will feel better than just passing out. I try, with each time I roll over to take at least 5 big gulps, and am usually feeling okay on the morning.

• Terrance McKenna said: "When you find yourself on a bad trip you can bring yourself around to center simply by singing;" anything, just concentrate on the tune and sing it out loud. Or whistle it if you can. Music soothes any savage beast, even the run away imagination.
I find this advice helpful even when I am frightened or down.

• If you have any sort of intestinal problem, indigestion, or heartburn lie down to sleep, on your left side. It has something to do with the way the large intestine works and keeps things moving as they should.

• Trouble sleeping? Young Living Herbs says to rub lavender oil into the soles of your feet last thing before you tuck them under the covers. Lavender calms, and applying it to the bottoms of your feet; one of the most vascularized areas of the body, helps move the calm into the bloodstream quickly and effectively.

•At first sign of a cold I start adding one or two full droppers of probiotic tinctures to my litre sized water bottle. I find golden seal, echinacea, astragalus, and elderberry all to be highly beneficial. You can allay full blown symptoms and suffer far less if you religiously drink it from the git go. Do this for three days. Then let your immune system take over.

• Cold sores can be made far less severe by dabbing the sore with lavender oil every time you feel it tingling. If you apply lavender oil at the first tingling symptoms, before break out, it won't ever be too much of a problem. This medicine can cause the sore to scab up, but at least it keeps it from becoming a growing, oozing mess.

• Look no further to easily remove sticky pine sap, cottonwood sap, and permanent sharpie markings. Apply lavender oil; just a couple drops on sappy, sticky fingers - magic, and smells as good as the sap!  And for permanent marker, use a small cloth saturated with lavender oil and wipe the mark off. A friend of mine who owns an antique store shared another secret regarding the removal of sharpie marker from glass. Take a sharpie marker and retrace the markings, to moisten the old mark. Then quickly wipe off with a cloth.

• New use for an old thing: use a shoe horn for a handheld boot scraper. Put a string handle on it and loop it on a hook close by the door. It beats trying to use the edge of the porch or pick out mud with a stick.

• When it is not convenient to let out a big, loud, splattering sneeze, try this; as soon as you feel that tickle coming in your nostrils, firmly pinch the bridge of your nose until the sneeze passes. It works about 90% of time.

• If you find yourself low on energy but don't have time to take a nap, make yourself some strong green tea. Drink it. Then for the 20 minutes it takes for the caffeine to begin working, lie anywhere that you can put your feet up high over your head. In yoga, we call it 'legs up the wall'.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Testimonial to the cabin that Finn built

I was in the market for a wall tent when I came across Finn and the cutest little cabin I ever saw. Finn was an acquaintance, so I asked him what the structure was. It was positioned up on a trailer and he'd obviously just pulled up at the Saturday craft market where I was headed to sell my lavender goods. Finn's response; "It's a tiny little house, you should step inside." Remember when Dorothy ran into the snake oil salesman on the road who later turned out to be the Wizard of Oz? This was me that day...I was in the market to find me that day six years ago, and this cabin has been part of my journey, but better still it has become my home, a place where I have found myself. I bought the cabin as a playhouse for myself and as shelter; the only shelter and shade to be had on a 20 acre parcel of land in the mission valley. For a year prior, my then husband, the two dogs and myself would continue our hand at trying to subdue the acreage I was able to purchase with money my mother left me on her death. It was difficult that first year. It was an alfalfa field, wide open to every element, not a lick of shade from even one tree, no out buildings, nothing. I used to set up a triangle piece of canvas much like a Bedouin tent next to the creek for all of us to crawl under, hide from the 100 degree heat and have lunch. The cabin sat out front of our house in town for a couple months before we could coordinate moving it up to the land. It was that brief period of time that I came to understand the luxury of having a 'room of one's own'. I would sit out there for hours, reading, crafting lavender, inviting my friends to stop in and have tea at my playhouse. Meanwhile, Finn was building me another; a basic shell I could place in the backyard that I could fill with the expanding back stock of my expanding lavender business. I spent many hours out there in my studio. And our little family would go to the cabin on the weekends. Once the cabin was situated on the land (and when you commission one from Finn, I highly recommend you request the moving team of Gary Delp of Heritage Timbers and Finn himself - honestly, it was entertainment and fun that is rarely encountered but long remembered) the entire dynamic of the place changed. We could cook lunch, we could nap on the single bunk, we could spend the night, sheltered from the dew, mosquitos, roving coyotes, and even winter winds. But one of my favorite things was the shade cast by even a small building out on that prairie. With it set next to the creek, after 2pm the block of shade grew long as the day progressed. So we set farm chore schedules akin to the Nearings of the 50's and were rewarded with long cool cabin-cast shade, the song of the creek and gazes of the grand Mission mountains through lazy lidded eyes. Lifetimes have occurred in the years since I acquired the cabin; a divorce after 17 years, leaving my house and gardens in town, a massive crop loss, a mid-life crisis... I have lived in many apartments but have never neglected to visit my cabin for an overnite stay. For awhile, when I could not have my dog in a couple of the apartments I rented, the cabin became the place where I got my doggie fix. And now it turns out that the first home I ever bought just happens to be this 7x12 one room cabin. When the shit hit the fan; my back stock lavender dwindled as did any and all surplus income, and then I was evicted from my apartment, it dawned on me that as it was all bought and paid for (Thanks Mom!), the cabin was the only thing that made sense. My religious weekend sojourns to it had proved to me that I could exist there. I had downsized my entire life, become quite used to living with less with each apartment I rented. So in October 2012 I moved in. And I realize, that I have not been this happy and content for some time. This is my home sweet home. I measured the inside when I was trying to figure out the way my necessary things would fit. At 6.5 x 11.5 feet it is just shy of 75 square feet. She is, with her arched roof, 6 feet tall. The slight arch makes even taller folk than my 5 foot stature feel comfortable. The wood that lines her insides is warm toned and Finn gave all the nail holes exacting attention with little half round wood caps. There are ample shelves, and storage space neath the bed. The single bunk is nestled at one end, next to a big window and has it's own skylight. There is another skylight above the kitchen. A small wood stove tucked into a corner, is, in winter, more stove than this space needs. Even on a 10 degree day, it warms to 85 degrees in a couple hours. When I let the fire die, heat holds at 60 degrees for hours on end. I cook marvelous meals on the 2 burner propane stove. I wash dishes in the bathroom size sink with water I haul in. It drains into a bucket under the sink. I use the grey water on my trees. There is ample storage under the sink. I utilize a cooler for a fridge. I have a bucket system toilet in another outbuilding. The small footprint of it is located in a large swale, close to a small perennial creek. It is obvious that the wild things rule here. And I would have it no other way. I maintain a low and quiet profile as much as possible to avoid disturbing those who were here long before me. And to bear witness to Nature. The cabin, with its windows to every direction, including up, is like a hunting blind. I see a lot and am unseen. What I notice most since I began visiting 7 years ago is that I can no longer abide noise-especially white noise. Trains, traffic, TV, clanging pipes, forced air heaters, electric gadgets and appliances, ticking clocks, dripping faucets, buzzing space cabin has none of it. I have traded them all in for: a crackling fire on a cold, Montana winter's night, the creek outside my door, a caroling coyote chorus roving the valley, a multitude of birds and occasionally , my dog going ballistic at an errant mouse up in the ceiling.
Lori Parr Writing to you from a lone prairie in St. Ignatius

Monday, January 7, 2013

cheating in the garden

I helped a friend with her garden last summer. She's a mom and the garden had gotten away from her as gardens are wont to do once it turns spring in these parts.
For 15 years I owned and operated a sole proprietorship garden maintenance service. It has since morphed into a consulting and design business. But I am always available to help maintain a garden.

After years of fine tooth combing gardens with methodical and meticulous attention to detail I have learned many tricks that are at once practical and effective. That day my friend said she had 3 weeks to get the garden looking its best. The owner of the house and garden was coming to town; and it was she who planted this garden some time ago when she was living in the house.
We spent two hours, hard at it that day, and from my assessment; there was at least ten more hard hours to get this garden up to snuff. I wasn't sure my friend could find the time, being a full time mom with all she's got goin' on besides...So My parting advice; call me if you get in a bind, otherwise cheat. She laughed at this idea, but I'm gonna share with you some professional tips on how to whip a garden into shape, even if you have less than three weeks to do it. And it's totally cheating, there's no skill required. Take a before picture because you will certainly see the difference after.
Top 5 cheaters tricks:

1. Prioritize the projects. Which section do you see always, or bothers you most? Start there. Be methodical. Do not move onto another section until this one is finished. This is the sure fire way to see the results of the time you spent. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and there is nothing like that to encourage you to continue. 2. Determine time limits. Sure you can spend 6-8 hours in a garden per day, but that is gruelling. Plan for 3 hour chunks. And to keep from getting exasperated, determine 3 different tasks (see following) that you can work on. That way, when you get bored with one you can change it up a little. You can also split the time you spend, say in your 3 hour time allotment spending an hour doing each project. 3. Quick, go thru the entire garden pull out or cut any and everything dry and dead. This includes last year's plants that didn't get cleaned out, dead branches in shrubs, and any dead tree, etc. You will be pleased at how quickly the garden 'looks' cleaned up by doing this first. 4. Next, stand back and assess the weeds that are predominant in the entire garden. Which one do you notice first? It is probably one that detracts from the garden plants themselves; either it is as tall as the blooming plants, gone to seed, or is sprawling in any space not taken up by a preferred plant. Put yourself on a mission to eradicate just that one weed from every where it doesn't belong. If you water the entire area thoroughly and then use a digging fork (like a pitch fork only sturdier) to loosen the weeds before pulling, this project will go fast! 5. Clean up the edges. If the garden border meets a lawn, an instant fix with immediate results is to mow the law. Trim the edge of the lawn where it meets the flower bed. Or, take a straight edged shovel and perpendicularly, cut a nice clean edge along the border. If it is a sidewalk or other hard scape that meets the garden border, meticulously weed that section, which will fluff up the mulch, which can then be raked smooth.