Little Green Tomatoes

Tiny Seeds of Goodness


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September

Southern Crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis)

 

September is a time of deep emotional and spiritual reflection for me.

A month of magic and mystical occurrences – past and present – September is a month in which I spend a great deal of time “within”, in introspection, plugging in to my intuitive self, paying attention.

September holds anniversaries of important events and great change in my life.

Companionship gained.  Companionship lost.

Connectivity. Parting.

Sweet. Bittersweet.

Births. Deaths.

Unfinished business. Conversations still needing to take place.

Trust gained. Trust lost.

September finds me yearning for the cool crisp mornings and evenings of Midwestern Septembers, while it is still very much hot summer here in the Southeast (98 degrees Fahrenheit on 9/29/19, for Pete’s sake!).  September heat and dryness makes me weary. Dry brown and yellowing leaves have begun to drift down from the tree tops. The vibrant colors of the summer flowers have faded, for they appear to share my weariness.  No amount of water from my garden hose seems to restore their vigor.  The lawn is dry, thinning, and downright crunchy in places.

And yet, this September, a bit of “new-to-me” magic has revealed itself. This magic is very old and very wise. It springs from Mother Earth and it is good magic. It provides a very necessary food source for the wild ones and a very much appreciated source of visual beauty and a spiritual salve for me.  It is a sign of two of Mother Earth’s Superpowers – Abundance & Healing.

For, this September, late-summer blooming native plants have appeared, in abundance, in the wild places on our property, and along roadsides and “wild edges” I pass by on my daily/weekly travels.

In general, I have to think that last year’s huge amount of rainfall and subsequent daily/weekly flooding played an important part in this year’s abundant blooms.  The massive soaking that began in late August 2018 and which continued through April 2019 most likely transported and distributed seeds via overflowing ditches, creeks, and flooded rivers. The area in which we live has a “normal” annual precipitation of about 44”.  From 1/1/2018 to 12/31/2018 we received about 68” of rain and snow. Our cup runneth over. The ground remained completely saturated.  With each new rainstorm, massive trees just leaned over and laid down, their root systems pulled free of the soupy soil, leaving open craters where they had once been anchored firmly to the Earth.  Gulleys and washes formed on saturated slopes, the red clay soil exposed and slipping downward.

For sure, soil and seed landed and mixed together along banks, riparian buffers, and woodsy edges.  And the continued above-average rainfall that fell through April ensured germination and rooting.

On our small piece of property, the abundance of late-summer flowering natives and the continuing presence of all sorts of pollinators, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, is a powerful acknowledgement that we are heading in the right direction – following the lead of Mother Earth…..

 A journey that began with a succession of unintentional actions and in-actions, on our part, and which now continues with an intentional purpose of nuturing, protecting, and improving habitat…….

A journey that ballooned with feelings of frustration, blame, turmoil, and a constant swirl of ‘out-of-control / never being caught up’ thoughts and words – all mixed in and mixed up with a time of life and series of events that brought copious amounts of sadness, guilt, isolation, and grief……

A journey that opened up into comfort and joy…..just about a year ago…….

It was as if something began to gently nudge me and encourage me to look a little closer…..to see beyond the swirling thoughts and the “scorecard” I still carried with me from a much different time in my life, and a much different mindset…..to begin to notice and connect with what Mother Earth has been busily healing and re-creating during my years of distraction.

Looking back, now, with my vision and my senses much clearer than before – if only I had been able to hear her then, I’m sure she was telling me “Don’t worry, I got this! You focus on what you need to do, and let me show you what I can do! Let me run with this – I have the wisdom and the resources, and if you give me the reigns and some time, we can do great things together!”

Where the big trees came down last year, there is new growth everywhere.  I assumed that would be the case, but I have been stunned by the abundance of new growth, the variety of plants and seedling trees, and the growth rate exhibited!  I began to really take note of all the newness and the absolute flush of new green and blossoms and fungi – the healing – in the Spring months. I have continued to be amazed throughout the summer, and still now, as the dry conditions and the heat wear on into autumn.  I am very much looking forward to working outdoors this winter and into the spring – adding more native plants to stabilize and hold the streambank, removing aggressive vines and poison ivy, and adding new understory shrubs and small trees which will provide food and nesting space for the birds.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to finding out what magic and surprises Mother Earth has in store.  I’ll be paying attention, taking note, and doing my best to follow her lead.

“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

~ Wendell Berry ~

 


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Giving. Giving Up. Surrender.

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Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

~  Martin Luther ~

An old friend gave a sigh of surrender and gave up Thursday afternoon – on the eve of Summer Solstice.  Gravity, a deep wound, and a hollowing heart proved to be more than she could bear.  She laid herself down in a swirling storm of wind and torrential rain.

Our neighbor often tells the story of how the tree leaned over, many years ago, in a severe storm.  The man who had planted and cared for her enlisted the help of the neighbor’s husband.  Together, they lifted her up and placed her roots back in to the earth.  We would have done the same for her.  However, that is not an option this time.

We will miss her…….

The pollinators will miss the profusion of food her blossoms offered up each Spring.  The sparrows and the nuthatches and the tufted titmice will miss the protection of her densely interwoven branches.  A whole host of wildlife, and our family dogs, will miss her imperfect, pocked, and wormy apples. The dogwood, the pecans, the crape myrtle, and the holly – her neighbors for 40-some years – will no doubt miss her presence.

I will miss her for all of the above and more……

But I will never forget the night, in late summer, about 5 or 6 years ago, looking out of the bedroom window and seeing a group of white-tailed deer, silhouetted against the silvery moonlit grass, dining upon her apples.  I don’t know what it was that awakened me that night, and compelled me to rise and look out of the window.  Maybe it was her, saying “Look!  I have something to show you! Please don’t gather up my fallen apples and put them in the trash.  For I have worked hard to produce them, and they are a bountiful feast for the deer and the opossum and the squirrel and the coyote.” I never raked up and disposed of a single fallen apple after that night.

Nor will I forget the sight of Ricky, a rescued German Shepherd Dog whom we had recently adopted, thoroughly enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures – snacking.  I smile when I remember the sight of that sweet old arthritic German Shepherd – with worn down teeth – quietly sashaying through the dappled shade of the pecan tree, making his way to the apple tree, browsing through the fallen apples, selecting the perfect one, trotting back up into the shady front yard, and lying down to enjoy his selection – core, seeds, stem and all.  A heartwarming simple pleasure for a sweet gentle boy who, a year earlier, had been left to starve by cruel stupid people who left him chained to the mobile home they had been evicted from – out in the middle of nowhere – without food or water.

And there is this…..

Thursday morning, hours before the storm arrived, I stood in the shade of the apple tree’s branches, somewhat reluctantly obliging our youngest dog while he rolled around and tossed and played with two small green apples he found lying in the grass.  As I stood there, the words “Tell my story” presented themselves very clearly to me.  And I thought “Yes, I should………I will.” Standing in that same spot on Friday morning, next to her snapped and broken trunk, I felt sad – my heart was heavy – and I felt like I too gave up, gave in, surrendered a little bit.  I gave in to some things that have been weighing heavy on my mind and in my heart.  And I gave up trying to figure it all out – fix it – see the positive – find the best solution.  I reached out and rested my hand on her fine cool bark and told her, “We will miss you.  And I surrendered a little bit today too.”

A little over a year ago, during a writing retreat, I wrote about my friend and our connection.  I’ll locate that notebook and post  the story here….soon.  For, it seems, now is the time to tell the story of The Apple Tree and Me.

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Remembering Friends

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~ Let us give Thanks ~

For generous friends with hearts as big as hubbards, and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends, as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions & cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For funny friends, as silly as brussels sprouts

And serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages

and friends, like parsnips, who can be counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time

And young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And, finally, for those friends now gone, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For this bounty of friends, we give thanks.

~ Max Coots ~

I have a calligraphy print of this lovely blessing hanging in my hallway.

I often pause to read it and I say “Amen”.

For where would I be without all of my friends?


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The Color Parade – Spring marches on

Parade 1

Two weeks ago there was a Purple Parade of Spring flowers.  This week, pink, magenta, fuschia, white, and lots of yellow tree pollen have joined in the celebration.

Weaving in and out, and fluttering all about are the pollinators – always a pure joy to see.  The first hummingbird was sighted a few days ago – visiting the nectar feeder, the pansies, and the azalea.  He or she drank deeply at the feeder, perhaps tired and thirsty from the long migration journey.  Bumble, Carpenter, Solitary, and Honey bees have been busily working alongside me in the garden – I am thankful for the early flowering plants and trees that tide them over until the massive April flowering happens.  A few early Swallowtail butterflies are about as well.

Interestingly, the tiny lavender flowers of the Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie) seem to be everyone’s favorite.  The Ground Ivy has been flowering for about 30 days now, and as one of the earliest nectar sources, it is popular because there are few other native flowering plants in abundance in mid to late March. But, even now, with an abundance of trees and plants in blossom, the humming and buzzing of the bees is most audible at the Ground Ivy.  How can I call it a weed when it feeds so many crucial contributors to an abundant environment? After pulling up armloads of it from under and around our raised garden troughs, and being aware that I was a bit unpopular for doing so (🐝🐝🐝),  we’ll wait until the flowers have faded before mowing the Creeping Charlie carpet along the ditchline, the woodsy edges, and around the Muscadine arbor.  “Anything I can do to help” – my personal Mantra – my promise to Mother Earth.

Parade 2

Spicebush Swallowtail (I think) feeding on nectar of lavender Ground Ivy flowers.  My camera was having a hard time finding focus, most likely because the butterfly was fluttering his wings constantly.  But I love the colors in the photo, and it almost seems to have a dream-like quality to it.

Parade 3

Dogwood blossom.

Parade 5

First grape leaves unfurling.

Parade 4

Montmorency cherry blossom – I would love to have enough cherries to make a cobbler this year!

Parade 6

Azalea blossoms and new lime green leaves.

I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.

~ e.e. cummings


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Needlepoint View

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The way the sunlight pierced through the blossoms of this azalea just outside my window was so striking that I wanted to capture it.  But I was afraid the window screen would detract from the beauty.  Instead, I love how the screen gives the photo a needlepoint appearance!  It reminds me of the floral needlepoint and cross-stitch pillows that lovingly graced the sofas and the armchairs of my grandma’s and my adopted grandma’s living rooms.

“Sometimes it is the thing we perceive to be the problem that turns out to be the solution.”

~Nib Loblolly


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Little Bits of Goodness – December 9

Pull up close by the fire my friends,

I’ll pour ye a cup o’ cider!

We’ll talk and we’ll laugh, we’ll toast, my friends,

Wassail – Waes Hael – Be Well, Good Health!

And Blessings to the Trees!

Wassail!  Lift ye cup o’ cider!

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Wassail , from Old English waes hael, is a beverage made of fruit juices, most commonly apple juice or cider, and spices, slowly heated and served warm.  The Old English waes hael means “be healthy”.  The ancient tradition of “wassailing” included singing, toasting, and drinking the beverage – to the health of the villagers and to the health of the apple trees, blessing the trees in the hopes of bountiful harvests to come.  I like the idea of acknowledging and showing appreciation for the bounty that Gaia provides! For without that bounty, where would we be?

Holiday Wassail

  • 48 ounces apple juice
  • 48 ounces cranberry juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • ¾ cup brown sugar

Place cloves in a mesh tea basket.  Add apple and cranberry juice to a large saucepan. Dissolve brown sugar in the juices.  Simmer until hot over low heat with cinnamon sticks and clove basket. If you need to keep the wassail warm for an extended perior of time, transfer to pre-warmed slow cooker, low setting.

Serve in glass mugs and garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick & orange wheel.

Wassail can be stored in refrigerator for up to one week. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves prior to storing in refrigerator.

P.S. The house will smell like heaven!  This is a great beverage to serve for a holiday open house – your guests will be greeted with the delicious yuletide aroma upon arrival!