Entries organized under Nicolas

If You Need It…

May 1, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

There is a principal in ‘herbology’ that effectively says if you need it, it will appear… even if you don’t realize you need it. We experienced this phenomenon several times on the farm.

P1100242This year, the Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) (also known as Gill-over-the-Ground) has REALLY increased it presence in our lawn and in the field up the hillside behind our home. With its square stem and stereotypical flowers, Ground Ivy is definitely a member of the mint family.

So the obvious question is: Why do we need it? What can it be used to treat?

One thing we knew is it has been used as a treatment for cancer. As far as we know, we are healthy in this respect.

Just last week a post was made on Facebook mentioning it was good for tinnitus.  After verifying this use in other sources, we tried it. (For definitive identity assistance, you might visit the Identify that Plant site.P1100239

Harry has had tinnitus for years… perhaps from hunting as a child with his Dad and Grandpa, perhaps from too many loud rock concerts during his college days… who knows.

Harry’s tinnitus stepped up a notch recently, from the constant high-pitch squeal or whistle to a noise that sounded more like spring peepers chirping… non-stop.

The recommended treatment is to drink a Ground Ivy infusion. An infusion is made by pouring boiling water over an ounce or so of plant material and letting it steep in a sealed container (like a capped Mason jar) for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Then strain the plant matter out and drink a cup or two of the liquid during the day.P1100244

After the first quart of infusion the peepers were silenced.  The squeal remains, but slightly diminished(?).

Here’s hoping for further improvement with more infusion! Luckily, the Ground Ivy will be available all summer.

 

 

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Signs of Spring!

March 12, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

We took advantage of a perfectly beautiful day to walk up our mountain to check on the progress of Spring.

One mission of our walk was to find the first wildflower of the season. We didn’t find it… yet. But… There are lots of tiny little plants peaking out through the leaf litter of the forest floor.

The coolest things we found were in or next to water.  In the next hollow over from ours, someone long ago built a little pond fairly high on the mountainside to catch water from a nice little stream coming off the mountain. After the water settles in the pond for a while, it leaves and tumbles down the slope, joining other streams, which join other streams, which join a river. All that water eventually finds its way to the Gulf of Mexico. (We are on the western side of the Eastern Continental Divide.)

We did find two other evidences of Spring.

frog egg mass

Think a deep-throated “Charump!” Or maybe it should be a higher pitched “Ribbet!”

Right! We saw some frogs swimming and jumping in the pond. They hid from us under the leaves and mud, so we could not identify them. (You would hide, too, if you saw something 100 times bigger than you coming towards your home!) But they left a huge mass of something that tells us they are there even if we had not seen them jump and swim.

Can you tell what is in the picture?

Of course!  Frog eggs!  You can see the big embryo in each transparent egg.  In a short time, we should be able to see a tiny tadpole wiggling in each egg.  This pond will be FULL of tadpoles soon!  If we had sat down and been very still and quiet, I bet the frogs would have come up and sang for us.

The other thing we saw, while not rare, is seldom noticed and recognized:

liverwort&moss

This plant that looks like lizard skin is a ‘liverwort’ (a bryophyte).  It is a ‘lower plant’, more primitive than ferns and mosses (some of which you can see poking out between the thallus (not a leaf or stem, but a ‘body’) of the liverwort. This plant has no stem, leaves, flowers, seeds or ‘veins’. Instead of seeds it has spores.

This primitive liverwort should not be confused with the spring wildflower liverwort (Hepatica), which will bloom in about a month.

We found one more thing near this liverwort and moss.

Do you recognize these?

cocoons&moss

 

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure they are little insect cocoons. They could be insect eggs, but I don’t think so. IN either case, they have been here all winter waiting for warm weather to arrive so they can emerge.

Even though it may still be cool where you live, go out and see what ‘signs of spring’ you can find.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Big Snow

January 24, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Hurray! We finally got a “big snow” up here on our mountain! (I know there are many out there that do not like snow, sorry.) In two days it snowed more than all of last winter combined! Of, course, it was not as much snow as some other parts of the country got, but still, it’s a lot.

The first bit of snow came down quiet, gentle and nearly windless, piling up on tree branches, even the small twigs. The three or four inches accumulation was so pretty.

The second, bigger storm came in on roaring winds. Because of the wind, it is hard to know how much really came down. In some places it was eight inches deep, in other places it was 24 inches deep. In many places it was up to the wolves’ bellies! Deli loves to roll in it; Grace likes to dance in it and then just lie in it; Tuls seems to be indifferent though she does, on occasion, like to run and scoop snow into her mouth.  They all have to bite the snow from between their toes when they come back into the cave.

There is so much to like about snow:

* As it falls and accumulates, it is so quiet. Few go out in it to make noise and the noise that is made just gets swallowed up in it.Snowy barn

* The crunch of fresh cold snow under foot is unlike any noise you will hear in spring, summer or fall. And much more pleasing a sound than the ‘splet’ and ‘squelsh’ as it warms up and turns to slush as you step in it.

* The snow swirling and dancing as it is driven across the ground just looks happy! It makes me happy! Where will it come to rest?

* The clean fresh surface lets us see who has passed. You can follow tracks of Mrs. Rabbit to see where she has gone. You can see what the birds like to eat with their chaotic dance under a branch that used to be full of seeds. You can know that Mr. Deer has been searching for food in the meadow.  It can tell interesting stories if you know how to read it.

 brid tracks in snowdeer tracks * After the clouds have dropped their frozen cargo and departed, the sun comes and makes every snowflake sparkle like the whole world is covered in diamond dust.

* The trees on the tops of the taller mountains have collected a glaze of ice because they stuck up into the clouds gathering water before it froze into snowflakes. They are so beautiful as they shimmer in the sun with a different sparkle than the snow.

* You can make snow angels.

* You can make snow bears… and rabbits… and people.

* You can make snow forts and castles, if you have enough.

 

Distant_Snowy_mountains

* You can see the snow covered ground under the trees on the mountains across the valley. You can see the flow and roll of the land better and that white surface under the snowless gray trees makes the mountains look like they are wearing a dark furry coat.

snow creature

* Snow creates rare funny creatures.

* You can make snow cream!

* After playing (and working) in it, you can go inside and warm up by the fire!

Snow is not so bad. I like it.

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Happy New Year, 2016

January 1, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Most Animals in the northern hemisphere know the Sun and Earth have started another cycle of life at the Solstice. The Animals in the southern hemisphere will restart their cycle in 6 months. Humans have picked a different marker to celebrate renewal.

To all our readers, human and otherwise, Happy New Year

In our woods, the First Breath of Spring bushes (Lonicera fragrantissima) and the Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) are in full bloom offering food to any brave bees willing to venture out to forage as the local temperatures finally begin to drop after the warm Christmas rains.

The cubs have all departed for their own caves in far-off woods. They left me a much-appreciated gift of a denim apron to help keep shavings and sawdust out of my fur. The oldest male-cub helped me (actually, he did all the cutting!) take down a neighbor’s dead maple (sugar, I think (Acer saccarum) which I will turn into bowls and other useful things (probably including heat).

Unfortunately, the apron, during its first use, did not protect my paw from a flying, lathe-ejected piece of bark.

A couple of dried Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers bound to the wound under a bandage, quickly stopped the bleeding and accelerated the healing such that while it still feels traumatized, it is nearly healed after only three days.

 

For Christmas, I gave Elia a crudely carved spatula I freed from a twisted piece of cherry firewood.  Look how beautiful the grain is!

Cherry Spatula

She also received this little bowl I discovered hiding in an old black locust fence post.

Locust tricorner

I also removed the ‘waste’ from a small piece of soft mahogany scrap from Elia’s Dad’s old workshop.

Mahogany square

Nature creates such amazing and wonderful masterpieces with trees and other plants.

I hope you’ll look around and find some miracles!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

First Snow (Sort of)

December 16, 2015

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Last week felt like we Graybears had migrated to the Bahamas… or the Bahamas had come to us! (At least, I have heard the Bahamas are warm even in winter.) Beautiful days with high temperatures in the sixties made us want to be out exploring instead of preparing the cave for the cubs’ Christmas visit.

We did take an afternoon off to celebrate our eleventh anniversary and take a walk along one of our favorite local trails. On our way home, we had to stop and enjoy one of the most spectacular and reddest sunsets we have seen in a long while. Even several humans stopped to appreciate and capture it with their cameras.

It was surely an optical illusion, but with no leaves on trees everything seemed so much more present, crisper and closer. Rock faces and other landscape features appeared in places we had passed dozens of times before without noticing. (Very uncharacteristic for a bear – we notice everything!) Vista views seemed wider and farther than in spring or summer. Even as the temperature dropped as dusk approached, it was hard to take our eyes away from the beauty.

Yesterday we could feel the temperatures drop all day long. We woke up to upper thirties and by dusk it was in the upper twenties with the first light snow of the season carried by very high winds… gusts more than thirty miles an hour. It made the cave vibrate and the trees roar! Even the wolves didn’t want to stay out in it and preferred the cave warmth. It was so nice to be inside by the fire even though the snow ended up being only a dusting that barely lasted in the shade once the sun rose.

That’s it for now. Time to wander out to find some plantain (Plantago lanceolata). I’ll chew it up and hold between my cheek and gum most of the day to draw out a minor toothache.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Not Officially Winter

November 17, 2015

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

It’s not officially Winter yet, but it sure has a wintery feel:  temperatures hovering around freezing in the mornings; occasional frost; mountainsides devoid of colors other than browns and grays – save the few pines, spruce and firs…

There are a very few lingering goldenrod, purple aster and yarrow flowers stubbornly displaying their defiance, but most of the summer flowers have produced their seed heads resulting in lots of fluffy clumps of various shades of off-white up the mountainside. The large mounds of virgin’s bower seed heads covering the dying vines always look frosty.

Ninety-nine point nine percent of the leaves have abandoned their tenuous perches and now begin their slow decomposition on the forest floor to humus to nourish their former hosts and new growth in the Spring.

The multiflora rose hips have changed from hard dry orange to softer red and, while they will never be as tasty as some other hips, have taken a decided turn toward a Vitamin C-laden sourness and sweetness.

Even the last of the domestic and escaped apples have ripened. A couple of prized trees have fruit that rival the Gala, Fuji and HoneyCrisp in flavor, texture and sweetness. YUM! (From which Elia, or one of the cubs, occasionally makes a pie for me.)

The scraps from the woodshop are knocking the morning chill back and warming us pleasantly as I write this. The scraps won’t last long when Winter really takes hold, but I and a couple of the cubs cut and split about six cords of firewood this past Summer that will hopefully provide two or three years warmth.

Speaking of the woodshop, I seem to have been cursed with the need to look at every piece of firewood as a potential project to be sawn, planed, bored, carved, turned or otherwise magicked into a practical or aesthetic object.

Ah, well, back to the apothecary. I need to whip up something Elia suggests I take for this cough while we eagerly await the first snow. (Which we had had by this time last year and does not look at all imminent – just another bout of heavy rain.)

Happy day to you!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.