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Monday, March 30, 2015

MEADOW MUFFIN MOMENTS, WEEK TWELVE, March 19 - March 25

Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much

March 19

"We workaholics make so many promises that no human being could possibly keep them. That is one of the ways we keep ourselves feeling bad about ourselves."
Lynn

We want to be liked and we want to please. In a world where it is easy to feel invisible in the crowd, it is flattering when we are asked to be part of something. It doesn't create a problem unless we already have too much on our plates and commit before thinking through one more obligation. Over-committing ourselves can result in being overwhelmed, resenting the situation and the people in it and then feeling bad about ourselves for those very feelings. It is best to see if you can and really want to fulfill a promise before saying yes. Most likely the person requesting your help wouldn't ask if he/she knew it was a strain on you.

March 20

"For years I have endeavored to calm an impetuous tide-laboring to make my feelings take an orderly course-it was striving against the stream."
Mary Wolstonecraft

As children we are often taught to be careful with our feelings. Feelings can be irrational, unpredictable, illogical and inappropriate for a situation. We later find that it is not possible to simply suppress some feelings without sacrificing others. When we push down our anger, our joy can go with it. Suppressing feelings leaves them to fester and emerge in other ways, sometimes with destructive results. We do  have to control our emotions but we shouldn't just deny to ourselves how we really feel.

March 21

"If you haven't forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others?"
Dolores Huerta

Part of being human is to make mistakes. Forgiving ourselves doesn't mean we are okay with things we may have done and were later sorry. It just means we are going to get past it and learn from it. People who just cannot accept the fact that they could be in the wrong tend to get caught up in ego and can be very judgmental of others. Having trouble getting past it when they feel wronged by someone could be because they have never reached a stage of forgiveness with themselves.

March 22

"Our most important decisions are discovered, not made. We can make the unimportant ones but the major ones require us to wait with the discovery."
Anne Wilson Schaef

It is said that the quality of decisions is directly proportionate to one's patience with his or her not knowing.
Too many times we feel pressured to make up our minds about something before being given ample time to really think about it. We're often made to feel weak if we have trouble making on the spot, snap decisions. Sometimes the reason for that hesitation is just that we don't know the answer yet and just need some more time to ponder. It has nothing to do with being indecisive.

March 23

"To be somebody you must last."
Ruth Gordon

Sticking with a situation ''if it's the last thing I do" may sound noble but sometimes it can become obsessive and result in cloudy judgement. We can get so fixated on hanging in there that we may not recognize that sometimes the best thing is to just step out of the situation. Walking away from a project can help one refocus or it may allow someone else to step in. While it is important to persevere, we have to be able to discern when it is best to continue, when it is best to take a break and when to let it go completely.

March 24

"You love like a coward. Don't take no steps at all. Just stand around and hope for things to happen outright. Unthankful and unknowing like a hog under an acorn tree. Eating and grunting with your ears hanging over your eyes, and never even looking up to see where the acorns are coming from."
Zora Neale Hurston

In this world there are "leavers" and there are "takers". Zora makes a humorous comparison with hogs but does make a point. We can root around and munch on the goodies around us without ever acknowledging from where they come. With so much abundance it is easy to take it all for granted and not even think about the natural resources or the assembly line of work that made it so available at our fingertips. It is good for the soul to look up, be grateful for the many gifts among us, and give thanks.

March 25

"My husband and I have figured out a really good system about the housework: neither one of us does it."
Dottie Archibald

Housework is a good analogy to the busyness of a workaholic. How much of the constant repetitive housework we do is because of our need to keep busy and not because it actually needs to be done? Often, our busyness is a subtle form of procrastination that keeps us away from what we really need to be doing.
I suppose that is true, but in our household, when housework gets done it is because it needs to be done. I don't think I've ever had the time to clean just for something to do. But I have to admit to doing chores to avoid doing something I've been pushing off.



 To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4
Week 10 March 5 - March 11
Week 11 March 12 - March 18





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stinging Nettles, an Herbal Pharmacy


 

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica), a herbaceous perennial found almost worldwide is an undervalued and misunderstood plant. Many of us discovered this plant the hard way and probably cursed its very existence. Brushing up against stinging nettles results in a sting you won't soon forget. The leaves and stems are covered with brittle, hollow, silky hairs that contain three chemicals, a histimine that irritates skin, acetylcholine which causes the burning feeling and serotonin. But once one learns the plant's value and proper ways of handling it, it can become a medicinal and vegetable dish favorite. 

Nettles are a foraging favorite for those seeking out the nourishing spring greens. They cannot be eaten raw, but used in tea form or cooked like spinach, you can just taste the green energy. The stingers are deactivated by cooking, steeping, or drying, but not by juicing. 


According to food forager, "Wildman" Steve Brill, this natural source of green energy is good for rebuilding the system of chronically ill people. Many of the benefits are due to the plant's very high levels of minerals, amino acids and they're 10 percent protein, more than any other vegetable. For health purposes, nettles are known as a kidney and adrenal ally, great for removing toxins from the blood, reducing inflammation, help with eczema, and are a traditional food for people with allergies. When skin and hair are a problem, nettles can come to the rescue for restoring balance and vitality. Tired all the time? Add nettles to your diet.

To gather nettles, you must wear long pants and use gloves so when you touch them you can avoid the nasty sings. Best when gathered while tender and young, April and May are the best months to cut and harvest the plant. After they flower, the leaves may be bad for the kidneys. If you cut the plants back midsummer, you will have time for another harvest before frost. Just take a hedge shears and cut down to about six inches off the ground. It will grow right back.

As with most greens, nettles will cook down a great deal, so for eating as a cooked vegetable you need to cut a large quantity. A good way to gather such an amount is to use one of those circular, collapsible, mesh hampers. Cut and toss the plants into the hamper for as little chance of skin contact as possible.

Below is a tasty recipe borrowed from Matt and Betsy who have the very informative site: DIY Natural. 

SAUTEED NETTLES WITH ONIONS AND PASTA
(makes 2 - 3 servings)

Gather 8 cups fresh stinging nettles, rinse and chop into smaller pieces
  (wear gloves when handling nettles and use tongs to rinse them)
1/2 cup spring onions
2 - 3 crushed garlic cloves
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp bacon fat
  (Bacon adds a great taste to greens. Fry bacon and save for another time or use bacon in this recipe in place of the ham)
1/2 cup ham cubes (optional)
1 cup noodles, uncooked
salt, pepper, additional garlic powder to taste
freshly grated parmesan cheese


Boil water and cook the noodles. Strain, add a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.
Melt butter and bacon fat in large skillet. Over medium heat, saute onions and garlic gloves until soft (add garlic after onions are half cooked to avoid burning them)
Using tongs, carefully add nettles to skillet with onions and garlic and saute until cooked down.
Add ham, if desired, and noodles. Toss together to combine.
Season with salt, pepper and additional garlic powder if desired and top with parmesan cheese.

 

Next time you are feeling run down or miserable with spring allergies, think of this delicious dish as an idea for dinner. Follow with an energy restoring cup of hot nettle tea.

For more food recipes utilizing nettles

Nettles are good for you inside and out!

 Next time you reach for the oil and vinegar as dressing for your salad, think about a wonderful way to increase the nutritional value of that dressing. A good quality extra-virgin olive oil is the oil of choice but did you know you can turn an ordinary vinegar into an extraordinary source of minerals?

In the Wise Woman tradition ("Healing Wise" by Susan Weed), it is claimed that we can improve our health by allying ourselves with common, abundant wild plants, the weeds. Called the green allies because they can become our closest friends in terms of supplying our bodies with what we need for good metabolism, strong bones and vitality. The minerals in plants are water soluble therefore in a form easily absorbed by our bodies.


Herbal vinegars are a wonderful way to put up herbs for later use.  Natural vinegars, preferably raw with the mother (Bragg's vinegar is a good one), are especially effective for extracting the mineral richness of plants.  Be sure pesticide or herbicide hadn't been used on the area you choose to gather your plants. Wait until late morning after the sun has dried the night dampness and using a kitchen shears snip the leaves leaving behind the plant to regrow (if desired). You don't want to pull the whole plant out of the ground and have the mess of dirt clinging to the leaves. Remember to use gloves when dealing with nettles.

When you have enough plant material to fill a mason jar spread it out on a baking sheet for an hour or so to not only dry a bit more but to give any bugs a chance to exit. Using the kitchen shears cut the leaves, stems and flowers into smaller pieces to expose more surface area to the vinegar.  Pour the vinegar over the plant material to fill the jar and cover the plant material. Using a chopstick or wooden spoon (vinegar reacts with metal so don't use a metal spoon), push down the herbs to fully mix and release air bubbles. Then top off with more vinegar. Cap tightly with a plastic lid (don't use a metal lid) and let sit  for about six weeks. The location for the jar should be somewhere you won't forget about it since the jar should be shaken daily, but in a cool spot away from exposure to direct sunlight.

By six weeks the plant material will be pretty much used up and it is ready to strain. The easiest way to strain is to put a funnel into the opening of another jar or bottle and lay cheesecloth or a metal strainer over the funnel. Then pour the vinegar through and discard the plant material into the compost bin if you have one. Herbal vinegars don't have to be refrigerated but it is best to use up within a year for the greatest potency from the herbs. Besides, you will probably want to make a fresh batch every spring anyway.

 Besides using your nettle vinegar on your salad, it makes for a wonderful herbal hair rinse to remove build-up of styling products and restore shine.
The addition of herbs to the vinegar allows the rinse to enhance hair color, help bring out desired highlights, and condition hair at the same time.

 Many of our hair care products are strongly alkaline and cause a dulling buildup on the hair shaft.
Healthy hair is on the mildly acidic side of the pH scale between 4.5 and 5.5. Apple cider vinegar has an acidic pH of 2.9. Apple cider vinegar rinses help to balance the pH and remove buildup, giving you a softer, shinier, easier to detangle head of hair. Rinsing will close the hair shafts resulting in a smoother surface. By closing the cuticles of the hair, light reflects off of it, which means shiny hair.





Below are two hair rinses available from the Meadow Muffin Gardens shop. These include not only nettles but other wonderful herbs known for their beneficial properties with hair and skin care.


Vinegar rinse for lighter hair
Chamomile and Calendula have long been used for home hair rinses to condition and try to keep that lovely blonde color from turning what we know as "dirty blonde".
Nettles are full of minerals, chlorophyll and antifungal properties used to prevent and treat scalp funk. Nettle is also a stimulant used to enhance hair growth.
Lemongrass and grapefruit essential oils are additional antimicrobial aides as well as offering their fresh citrus aroma.




Vinegar rinse for darker hair
Sage and Rosemary are often used to help darken greying hair and bring out auburn tones.
Sage, rosemary and nettles are a tonic for dry hair and itchy, flaky scalp. It is also said that these invigorating herbs enhance hair growth.
Basil and lavender essential oils combine for an uplifting, refreshing aroma.






Even if you have no interest in dealing with a nettle patch for food or medicinal purposes, let it alone to help out the butterflies. Members of the Nymphalidae or Brush-footed butterflies, depend on nettles for the growth of their caterpillars. Look for Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, and Commas.

Nettles also make a great fertilizer for the gardener. Soaked in a bucket of water, the resulting tea once strained is great for the plants and can be used as a spray for aphids and black flies. Add chopped up nettles to the compost heap to act as a natural activator which speeds up decomposition.

For those who don't have access to the fresh plants or have no interest in dealing with it, stinging nettles can be purchased as a dried herb. Teas, cold infusions and herbal vinegars are easily made using dried stinging nettles. 


 

 Love it or leave it, you certainly won't forget it once you happen to meet and greet! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

MEADOW MUFFIN MOMENTS, WEEK ELEVEN, March 12 - March 18

Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much


March 12

"Of all the idiots I have met in my life, and the Lord knows that they have not been few or little, I think that I have been the biggest."
Isak Kinesen

Very powerful for clearing away the baggage we carry around in our lives is accepting the fact that we do make mistakes and making amends with those we may have wronged. To own our own lives we must first own up to our errors and not continue to beat ourselves up over those mistakes.

March 13

"We are not human beings trying to be spiritual. We are spiritual beings trying to be human."
Jacquelyn Small

It is said that we are first spiritual beings and only when we realize the enormity of that, can we be fully human. To be spiritual isn't something we choose to be, it is who we are. To be spiritual does not mean you are categorized into a certain religious denomination. Don't confuse the two. With everything we do, every decision we make, our spirituality is there.

March 14

"Fury gathered until I was swollen with it."
Vera Randal

A good scream is the perfect release for pent up emotions and stress. Though we may feel foolish afterward, we have to admit we do feel better. Of course, this best be done without anyone in earshot to be verbally offended or think us crazy.

March 15

"When we, as individuals, first rediscover our spirit, we are usually drawn to nurture and cultivate this awareness."
Shakti Gawain

There is no way to know ourselves unless we have time alone to explore. We have to remember that there is someone inside of us worth knowing. Many people don't like to be alone, either out of a need for a connection with another, or perhaps they don't want to discover who it is they really are. We have to stop all the busyness and realize that alone time is as essential as our other basic needs.

March 16

"I have been told that crying makes me seem soft and therefore of little consequence. As if our softness has to be the price we pay out for power, rather than simply the one that's paid most easily and most often."
Audre Lorde

Tears and softness are not really valued in this society. When women do show their soft side it may be seen as an indirect form of manipulation. But there shouldn't be the need to give up the soft side of who we are and turn on the tough guy act to attain respect. There is a time for tears and there is a time for assertiveness, both can be an expression of strength and love.

March 17

"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."
Madeline L'Engle

Life is a process and it takes every experience along the way to develop the person we have become. It is a mistake to try to block out certain periods of our lives because they were the result of poor decisions or painful. Getting through the tough times pushed us beyond our limits and into stronger and wiser individuals. Every wrinkle and ache has been hard earned and we need to be proud and thankful for having the opportunity to get older.

March 18

"For me it's a constant discipline to remember to go back inside to connect with my intuition."
Shakti Gawain

Listening to our intuition is a wise thing to do. We need to trust our instincts and respect those first gut feelings about situations. Self-doubt and insecurity can be one's own downfall as time and again we could kick ourselves for not trusting our instincts and heeding the advice from elsewhere. We have much more brainpower than we realize. We live in a society that develops the logical/rational/linear parts of our brains and leaves undeveloped our awareness, intuition and creativity. Remember that those parts of our brains are just as important and are always waiting to be sought out.


To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4
Week 10 March 5 - March 11

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shop Till You Drop and still Be Kind to our Earth

 

Everything man does seems to effect the earth, yet nature has an amazing knack for healing and adapting to the challenge of survival.  

 

Earth Day is coming up and with it comes renewed awareness of how we can make change and a difference. There will the be usual planting of trees and community activities but how about we look closely at our own lives and see where we can make a difference every day of the year.

 

 We live in a society of consumerism where if you have the means to purchase something you are free to do just that. We love to shop. It's a day out, it's fun, and we all like the thrill of a bargain and bringing home something new. But that is the word we're going to focus on with this post. What is the meaning of "new"? Does it have to be newly made from raw materials? Or can it just be new to you?

 

Thank goodness the times have changed with the attitude towards second hand or thrift shopping. My grandparents' generation pulled themselves out of the depression era with a proud determination in capitalism. If a man or woman worked hard and was blessed to be financially comfortable than to buy new was a perk without having to settle for used ever again.There used to be a sense of embarrassment if seen by someone you know while shopping in a thrift shop. To do so meant you were struggling financially or were considered low class.


Factory production and a market that demanded the items meant jobs, therefore to buy new was supporting the continued need for employment.  That philosophy was wonderful until companies sought out the cheapest ways to meet the demand. Companies may seek to move overseas in order to employ cheaper labor and acquire cheaper materials. What has resulted is modern day slavery and a major strain on our environment.

 

The fashion industry rolls out the latest trends at an unbelievable rate to keep up with seasonal sales. They can do that by finding the cheapest labor markets to put out in bulk and keep prices low. Neither concern for the worker nor the source of the materials is often a main priority for those at the top of the corporate ladder. 

 

Poor, unsafe working conditions, low wages, and few benefits keep these working people in unhealthy, high risk situations with little hope to better the future for their families.

 

We usually don't question just how fabric ends up with the brightest array of colors and the whitest whites. These are the result of bleaches, acid washes and chemical dyes which contain heavy metals known to be carcinogenic. Because being environmentally responsible isn't always required and being it costs money, textile industries may skirt around proper clean-up and disposal. Waste may be just dumped into local waterways or buried under the ground. Water becomes polluted from not only the waterways but chemical seepage over time should these buried barrels leak into the ground water.

 

Since clothing is often cheaply made, it's life span is not nearly as long as the clothes we remember as hand-me-downs. The clothing industry doesn't want you to save your clothes for the future, they want families to buy new. Combine that with the mentality that people get bored with what they have, and we have a major concern with the amount of added trash to the landfills. People too often have the attitude that if they are going to pay for trash pick-up then they are going to get their money's worth and fill those cans. Please take the time to support services and businesses dependent on donations.

 

Most of our clothing is made from cotton. Since the 1960's the world has doubled its production of cotton. Synthetics are huge too, but cotton is still the main demand. To fill that demand we now have Monsanto providing farmers all over the world with genetically modified seeds. We know GMO crops affect the soil, the water, the air, yet feel powerless to stop it. The amount of pesticides needed to keep these crops free of pests is a real danger to not only the environment but to every living organism. People working the fields without protection are put at real risk for illness.

 

Buying organic cotton clothes may seem like the answer. It is a better choice, but though organic cotton reduces pesticide use, the processing and dyeing require more water and energy than conventional cotton. We're hearing a lot about bamboo since it is easily renewable. But again, after harvest the process to create a soft fiber requires it be spun with harsh chemicals.

 

So we may not be able to change things overnight but we can decide how we as individuals do our shopping. At least when you buy used, already purchased clothes (and anything else for your household), you aren't contributing to the initial source of the problem.

Thank goodness our children are now in a society supporting sustainability and the three R's: reuse, recycle, renew! To shop second hand is a way of boycotting the fashion industry with its wasteful packaging, sweat shop labor, and ridiculous price tags. Yard sales, on-line barter sites, flea markets, community swap days and thrift shops can be a gold mine for those seeking to save money, find great deals, discover unique treasures and antiques. Great for those who love to shop because they get bored with what they already have. They can rotate their clothes by donating them back into circulation for someone else, come home with new finds, and not feel guilty since they never spent full price on the originals.

 

Now to how we care for all these great finds. Be conscious with how much you use your washing machine. They say the average household washes 400 loads of laundry a year. That is a lot of water. Before wearing an item only once and tossing it into the hamper, consider if it is "dirty" enough to need a washing yet. Depending on what our daily activities are we may not have to wash so often. Be sure the loads are full before using the energy it takes to complete a cycle. Try to reserve hot water only for whites and either make your own laundry soap or buy phosphate-free detergent.

 

Finally, if you are allowed and have the space, hang your clothes outside to air dry. This is another area where I am so glad times are changing. There are those with the attitude that to see someone's delicates flapping in the wind labels them as low classed. Though some housing units have rules against clothes lines, if it is permitted, give it a try and enjoy the wonderful fresh scent of clothes dried in the sun. 

 

Think reuse, recycle, upcycle, renew, whatever it takes to sort out the treasures from the trash! 

 

 The source for this post

 

An alternative to buying used is to buy new but shop at your local retailers. You'll not only be supporting small business owners but you can find out from where the items originate.

 

Or you can buy online from sites such as ETSY or ZIBBET where the items are homemade, handmade with all the love and attention that goes into detail, one product at a time


 




 

 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What do Daffodils have to do with Narcissism

By the time March rolls around we are usually craving the first sightings of our old Daffodil friends to make their appearance through the cold, muddy ground.

If you are into flowers then you may be intrigued by all the stories and lore behind their names, origins, symbolism and contributions. Every month has a flower and the flower for March is a Mediterranean native, the Daffodil.

The word daffodil comes from the Greek word asphodel which means "kings spear". The botanical name is from the Latin, Narcissus. Also called paperwhites and jonquils, they are the same flower, just used differently. Daffodils are used to describe the large trumpet type flowers and narcissi are used to describe the types with several fragrant flowers on each stem.

Daffodils are perennials grown from bulbs, and are favorites because they never fail to return year after year. Often preferred over tulips for the reason that due to it being a toxic plant, rodents usually leave the bulbs alone. Containing the alkaloid poison lycorine, the plant is poisonous if eaten. It is said that Roman soldiers  would bring the plants onto the battlefield and when injured to the point of death, the plant would be eaten to relieve pain and hasten the inevitable.

Though toxic if ingested, herbalists do use the sap as a cleansing agent for wound care, soothe burns and induce vomiting. It has been found to contain properties now known to help with Alzheimer's disease in the form of a drug called Galantamine.

Said to represent rebirth and new beginnings, daffodils are symbolic for spring, but also represent symbolic affection. When letting someone know that you feel the same way towards him as he does towards you, jonquil flowers are given as unrequited love.


So what do daffodils have to do with the word narcissism? You may be familiar with the Greek tale of Narcissus, the physically beautiful young man who being so self-absorbed, rejected all potential lovers. When he spurned the sensitive spirit of the nymph, Echo, he brought on the wrath of the powerful god of revenge, Nemesis. Nemesis caused Narcissus to fall in love with himself, to which he became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool of water. Not realizing the reflection was himself and not a lover, he became unable to tear himself away and ended up committing suicide by drowning. When the nymphs returned to take his body for burial, they discovered in place of where the body had been there was a lovely flower with yellow blossoms, and so gave the flower the same name, Narcissus.


The term "narcissism" was introduced in 1887 by Alfred Binet as a term describing men who were self-absorbed and incapable of developing a healthy relationship with another person. Its usage today stems from Freud's 1914 essay, On Narcissism. Freud expanded the term to explain the difference between being pathologically self-absorbed and normal interest in oneself.


People who find themselves in a relationship with a narcissist often don't recognize the signs in the beginning. In fact, the characteristics of a narcissist often are initially found to be very attractive. These people seem to always know just what to say and do and the partner may think he or she has found their soul mate. But then the roller coaster ride begins.


The meaning of love is full of myth in definition. It is not about inflated egos or manipulation or obsession. If a person is fine with being subjugated and having their own needs disregarded then the relationship may just work in its dysfunctional way. Trying to have a healthy relationship with a narcissist often proves very destructive to those involved, be it a partner, family member, friends or coworkers.


Narcissists have a profound inability to show empathy for others. People in their lives are usually there to serve a purpose for them, be it a financial stepping stone or just another piece in their plan for success. The term narcissus is related to the word narcotic, which in Greek means, "to numb". A Narcissist is numb or immune to the pain of others, they simply do not care.

Of course we admire a partner who is self-confident and a go-getter. But if there is a need for self-inflation, haughty, intimidating body language, the need to demand undivided attention from a group, impatience with the "stupidity" of people, quick to anger with anyone "wasting" his time, possessiveness over another, these are all red flags.


To make a relationship work with such a person, the partner has to be aware that they are basically dealing with a child. When children are small, they are naturally self-centered and think the world revolves around them. Normally, by the age of five, life experiences give them a rude enough awakening and they figure out pretty quick the reality of their place in the grand scheme of things. Picture the "everyone exists to serve me" mentality in the body of an adult with authority over people and it can become a recipe for disaster to the people caught up in such a relationship.

 To expect to be able to convince or assume such a person will take responsibility for his own behavior without finding blame in everyone else is a fantasy. To think that working harder, loving more or changing oneself will help is exhausting and possibly self-destructive.


Information for this post comes from the article:
Narcissism Isn't a Yellow Daffodil






Monday, March 16, 2015

Chickweed, If you Can't beat it, Eat it



 Call it a weed if you must, but chickweed is actually a very nourishing food and sought out by foragers every spring. It can be added raw to salads, steamed as a hot side dish or made into an infusion and drunk as a tea. The glandular and lymphatic systems can benefit greatly from the "life energy" of this wild plant.

 Chickweed is high in chlorophyll, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium, and vitamins C, A, and B vitamins. Old-time herbal books recommended adding chickweed to the diets of the young, the old, the weak and those recovering from surgery.


Chickweed is one of those creeper plants hardly noticed unless you're looking for it or a gardener cursing its prolific ability to self-sow. It may seem to invade as it forms a low growing mat over the ground, but being it prefers cool, shadier spots, its presence in a sunny garden often just seems to disappear as the summer heat builds. For those who just want it out of there, they may get very frustrated and find it to be one of the hardest weeds to just pull out. Having weak stems, the upper section comes easily out of the ground, but left behind are the tiny roots and stems which cling to the soil. And even if pulled from the ground, plants left lay there will still ripen and spill its seeds.

Chickweed gets its common name because chickens love it. In fact, a good way to keep its production worthy for eating is to keep it cut so it doesn't get old and stringy. Give the extras to the chickens and you'll be rewarded with happy clucking. Older chickweed is mostly stalk and isn't nearly as tender as the young, leafy parts. Gathering this plant is simple, without dirt to wash off, if a small bunch at a time is carefully held off the ground with one hand while the other hand snips it with a scissors, like giving it a haircut. Eaten raw, the taste is juicy and without a strong taste. It isn't bitter at all like are many of the spring greens. 



Chickweed is Stellaria media which in latin means little star. The little white flowers appear to be made up of five petals but look closer and you'll see each petal has a cleft to become ten little slivers. It's a little fun to get poetic and compare the little star to the cool evening sky. Considered a cooling herb, conditions associated with heat such as fevers, infections and inflammation, can be eased with the use of chickweed. The plant contains what are called steroidal saponins, a soap-like waxy substance which emulsify and increase the permeability of all membranes. Saponins increase the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract, its expectorant qualities moisten and greatly aid with lung conditions, and overall, help strengthen weak bodily functions.

Chickweed is an old wives' remedy for losing weight. Being a mild, mineral rich diuretic, weight loss can be attributed to temporary water loss. But it is more than that. Chickweed is a metabolic balancer and its effects on the thyroid may help with weight the healthy way. As a mild diuretic, excess moisture is removed from the cells without stressing the kidneys.

Externally, using the fresh plant as a poultice is hard to beat for drawing out infections while reducing inflammation and swelling. Bio-available vitamin complexes like A and C, and minerals are accessible directly to skin cells, while the plant itself actually dissolves and absorbs bacteria.
Eyes bothered by allergies, sties, fatigue as well as conditions like pinkeye can be soothed immensely from a cooling poultice made from fresh chickweed.
A poultice can be made by either applying the fresh herb directly over the affected area or cooking slightly first and wrapping in a cotton towel. Poultices used for unbroken skin or clean wounds can be used a few times, but if using on infections, throw away and get fresh plant material for each application. The time to leave on varies. If resting with the eyes covered then leave on till its time to get up but if covering a wound, it can be left on for a few hours. You'll find the poultice actually warms up as it draws out infection.

Herbal Salve
For convenience with minor wounds, bug bits and rash, an herbal salve may be preferred. Ideal and safe for children and pets as there is little likelihood it will burn upon application and nothing is added that would be toxic if your pet licked it off.
This balm is also beneficial for the care of our elderly loved ones who may suffer with skin irritation as a result of trapped moisture or chaffing.
Salves are made by first preparing an herbal oil. Fresh or dried plant material is infused with a carrier oil such as olive oil, and left in a warm place for several weeks. The herbal oil is then strained and used as is or added to beeswax to thicken it into a salve.

To make a chickweed infusion for tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup of chickweed. Cover and let steep, off the heat, for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain out the herb and drink the tea hot.

Fresh chickweed can be added to the diet in salads, added to soups or as a side dish that will taste somewhat like spinach. Use the leaves, stems and flowers. 

Cooking shrinks chickweed by 3/4, concentrating the nutrients and compensating for whatever vitamins cooking destroys.

Greens:
12 cups chickweed, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
1 - 2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

 Steam the chickweed over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until just wilted (avoid overcooking), covered, in a heavy saucepan, without any more water than what clings to the leaves after rinsing and draining. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve hot. Serve as is or over a grain such as rice, quinoa or barley.


The source for the this post is from the book, "Healing Wise", by the respected herbalist Susan Weed.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

MEADOW MUFFIN MOMENTS, WEEK TEN, MARCH 5 - MARCH 11



Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much

 March 5

"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
Mother Teresa

It is said that loneliness is not outside, it's inside.
To some it may be hard to understand how a person can be dealing with people all day yet feel all alone. But for many of us who are constantly busy with little extra time to really connect with those we interact with, we may feel very little real connection, and that can be a lonely place. Avoiding a real closeness with people may be a way of avoiding intimacy or getting hurt. For those who feel they can easily be alone and not be lonely, than fine. But for those who feel out of sync and try to fill that void with busyness, they need to reconnect with their spiritual being in order to rediscover what is in their hearts.

March 6

"It has been wisely said that we cannot really love anybody at whom we never laugh."
Agnes Repplier

To be oversensitive and not be able to laugh at ourselves or at one another, is probably going to result in the failure of an intimate relationship. Getting to really know a person involves seeing their "moments" of what it is to be human. We aren't robots. We stumble and flounder and often make fools of ourselves. To be able to put the ego aside and laugh at it all creates relationships that are grounded in reality, and that is the foundation for intimacy.

March 7

"If, as someone has said,"...to be truly civilized, is to embrace disease..."
Robyn Davidson

The world can be a crazy place. When we are in situations where it just seems bizarre, over time our ability to separate what makes sense from what doesn't may get to the point where we question our own sanity. In trying to constantly adjust to crazy situations, we may start to question what is normal, what is dysfunction and what it really means to "go with the flow".  No, we're not crazy, it is just that a situation may seem to require a crazy person.

March 8

"I found God in myself and I loved her/I loved her fiercely."
Ntozake Shange

"Contact with God is so simple, and we make it so difficult."
It is only when we really know ourselves that we can become aware of the divinity that we share with all things. We are part of this whole scheme of things and once we can love ourselves we can connect with a higher power. Western culture may not appear to value the fact that spirituality is an important  basic need, just as are the physical, emotional and psychological sides.

March 9

"Part of my satisfaction and exultation at each eruption was unmistakably feminist solidarity. You men think you're the only ones that can make a really nasty mess? You think you got all the firepower and God's on your side? You think you run things? Watch this, gents. Watch the Lady act like a woman."
Ursula K. Le Guin

Isn't it interesting that uncontrollable acts of nature are so often given female names. Our technocratic society so often identifies nature as female, a force that is unpredictable and often difficult to control. Mount Saint Helens has become such a symbol. We not only have no control over her eruptions, we can not even predict what she is going to do  next, even with constant surveillance. Nature tells us again and again that we are not always in charge. It is hysterical that when a female simmers silently she is described as a typical woman, and when she blows her top she is also described as a typical woman.

March 10

"I am suddenly filled with that sense of peace and meaning which is, I suppose, what the pious have in mind when they talk about the practice of the presence of God."
Valerie Taylor

The word serenity is something we throw around as needing, yet rarely act upon understanding what it really means. To begin slowing down and taking time out for better mental and physical health, we can catch moments of peace and calm. We have to see these moments as a special thing and not get bored the moment we step away from all the action and drama around us. Serenity is available to all of us.

March 11

"My tidiness and my untidiness, are full of regret and remorse and complex feelings."
Natalia Ginzburg

If nothing else in life, try to remember what is important. End of life regrets so often include not pursuing our passions out of guilt over what we "should" be doing. Responsibilities very easily take precedence over what we would really rather be doing. Try to put your life into chapters. Things that had to wait at one point in life can hopefully be pursued at a later time. For example, being a great housekeeper with a spotless home is wonderful, but if keeping everything "just so" is simply unrealistic with whatever else is going on in life, stop self-judging and feeling the need to explain all the time.


To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Dandy Dandelion, The Remedy for Disorders

The stress people put on themselves in their battle to get rid of the dandelions in their yards is only getting a laugh from this tough, determined to survive plant. It may as well be saying "Wherever you go, I will follow". Dandelions propagate not only by way of the seeds that go wherever the winds blow, but by their roots. The taproots go so deep that when you pull the plant out of the ground, you are breaking the roots which readily regrow into new plants.

So rather than seeing the dandelion as ruining the perfection of a manicured green carpet of a lawn, why not rethink that there may be advantages to this "weed" and perhaps there is a good reason it can be found all over the world.

Before we get into the health benefits of this herb, lets look at it from an environmental perspective. Dandelions start popping up in early spring, a time of year when insects, birds and wildlife are returning to a limited food supply. The flowers are an important element of the diets of many flying and ground insects. Bees, wasps, grasshoppers, fireflies and butterflies all use the flowers as a food and in return serve the plant in its pollination.

Once the flowers go to seed, they are eaten up by the birds, in particular the American Goldfinch, the Lark Sparrow, Sparrows, Indigo Buntings, even wild turkeys, Bobwhites and Canada geese.

The leaves are sought out by mammals such as rabbits, chipmunks, deer and other wild animals who graze on greens. After a long, hungry winter, spring vegetation is a key to survival and supporting their young.

Spring is the rainy season and without deep rooted plants, soils become compacted and the runoff causes erosion of good topsoil. Dandelions deep roots create drainage channels in compacted soil, restore minerals to depleted soil, and aerate the ground which then attracts earthworms.

If that isn't enough to soften hearts for this plant, then perhaps just knowing it is considered an official medicinal plant may earn it a little respect. The botanical name of the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, taraxos is Greek for 'disorder' and achos is Greek for 'remedy'. Put them together and we have taraxacum which means 'I am the remedy for disorders'.

The entire plant is edible and used not only as a nutritious food source but as a remedy for various ailments. The roots are known as a supreme ally and tonic to the liver and valued for helping with gallbladder problems. The plant is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, natural sugars, carotenes and many phyto nutrients. Referred by many as a liver cleanser and blood purifier, dandelion helps to stimulate the flow of bile, strengthens the immune system, glandular, circulatory and lymphatic systems. When our systems are functioning properly many of our complaints with stiffness and skin problems clear up on their own. Since the liver has more than 500 functions, it's health is vital for a person to feel good. Good nutrition helps us be more resilient to stress and who doesn't need help with stress relief.

The leaves act as a diuretic to get rid of excess fluids. It is considered one of the best natural sources of potassium. After a long winter of too much rich food and not enough fresh air and physical activity, eating what are called digestive bitters helps get rid of that blah, bloated feeling. By increasing the hydrochloric acid in the stomach, digestion is improved, elimination is more regular and we generally just feel better. Get the kidneys, liver and bowels moving the way they should and many problems with kidney stones, indigestion and constipation resolve themselves.

The flowers are considered a beautifier. Herbal wisdom uses the flowers to tone oily skin, fade freckles and age spots, and soften rough skin. The flowers are gathered and made into herbal oils, wines, tinctures and elixirs. Balms and salves are used to for breast health by aiding the lympthatic system, as a balm for stiff joints and muscles, even menstrual cramps.

Acclaimed herbalist, Susan Weed, says "When the liver works well, the kidneys work better, and tissues no longer bloat." She also praises the dandelion to help with the menopausal years. "When we consume phytoestrogen-rich plants we allow our bodies to create the hormones we need for our menopausal journey." What a wonderful thing to keep in mind to prepare for hot flashes and night sweats. She does say we have to be patient. Herbal medicine doesn't show results overnight. It has to be a part of our lifestyle before the benefits are fully realized.

Dandelions are just one of the many spring greens we should add to our diets. Here are two informative blog posts regarding the benefits of adding wild bitters to our diets:
Herbal Allies talks about bone health
Healthy Vinegars talks about making herbal vinegars

If you do forage for spring greens be sure to know the identification of these plants. Also be sure you are picking plants that have not been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide.
A good source for wild edible plant identification is "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so wild) Places.  Written by Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean. 

Since the entire plant can be used there is much more flexibility for ways to use it. Some people love their teas, others add drops of the tincture to a glass of water, some love it as a sweet wine, others utilize the fresh leaves for their salad, and then we can always get loved ones to eat it by sneaking the leaves into soups. Below is a balm made from the infusion of dandelion flowers in olive oil. Very useful for stiff joints, chapped skin and sore breasts.

Two wonderful books by Susan Weed for anyone interested in the holistic, natural approach:
  Her books include "The Menopausal Years" and "Healing Wise"



Dandelion Salve/Balm


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

MEADOW MUFFIN MOMENTS, WEEK 9 February 26 - March 4

Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much
February 26

"Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier."
Kathleen Norris

In our "be all you can be" society where pride and independence are deemed so important, it sometimes can get to the point where a person just doesn't allow herself to stop. The art of nurturing oneself is not taught in our schools, and even in homes driven for success children may not have many self-nurturing examples during their upbringing. We have to learn that even in a high-tech society, taking the time to nurture oneself is essential for survival. Get to know yourself and what it is that you would love to do with your own special time, and then take it.

February 27

"This is the age of perfectionism, kid. Everybody try their emotional and mental and physical damndest. Strive, strive. Correct all defects."
Judith Guest

Perfectionism can take either of two paths, either trying too hard or never trying at all. Trying to mold ourselves into an ideal results in never feeling good enough, because the ideal isn't realistic. Perfectionism is a form of self-abuse. No amount of self-sacrifice will ever seem like enough since in our striving for that unrealistic ideal, we can never be satisfied.

February 28

"Laughter can be more satisfying than honor; more precious than money; more heart-cleansing than prayer."
Harriet Rochlin

After a good belly hurting laugh, have you ever stopped to realize how less stressed you feel? Many of us get almost self-conscious when laughing in public since we feel it may be viewed as disruptive noise. Laughter should be seen as a gift, contagious to those around us to put a smile on their faces too. Laughter is like the human body wagging it's tail.

March 1

"We both of us secretly believed in an external power that one could tap, if one were in tune with events."
Robyn Davidson

Living in process is living our process and being one with the process of the universe. To be a workaholic removes us from our connection with the living process, and we feel alientated from our spiritual side. The need to always have to have control robs us of feeling connected to a higher purpose. Getting back in touch with who we really are helps us get back in touch with our spiritual beliefs.

March 2

"Feeling crazy may be a mark of sanity in my situation."
Anne Wilson Schaef

The norm in society is the comfort zone. For those who view life a little unconventionally are often considered oddballs or weird. Who is the one to interpret what constitutes normal from dysfunctional? To get to the point in life where you aren't afraid of being different, don't care what people think, is an awakening point where we can feel very 'sane' with our 'craziness'.

March 3

"Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."
Toni Morrison

The only way to grow is to let go. We too often hang onto our old "shit" like some precious commodity. We stew over the past as if hashing about it enough will make some sort of difference. If you wonder why you feel stuck and held back in your life, perhaps you need to clean out the barnyard stinking up your life. Bury the hurt and anger so that you can finally heal.

March 4

"The white fathers told us, "I think therefore I am," and the Black mother within each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel, therefore I can be free."
Audre Lorde

Often we have been trained that feelings are a weakness and can make one irrational. We are told to control our thoughts, get a grip on our emotions, and move on. That may work for a while in our striving for success, but eventually those repressed feelings will erupt with an intensity that can be a shocker. Feelings are very natural. Intuition and gut instincts are tools we would be wise to start trusting.


To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28
Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25