Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Aloe: Mother Nature and FDA Approved!

Welcome to the zany world of snowglobes since that's pretty much what it looks like outside right now! Big flakes slowly free falling to the ground like whirling dervishes.  It is pretty to watch, that's for sure. So this week I'm posting a few quick picks then heading out to catch a few snowflakes!!

Aloes. (Aloe barbadensis that is)  They've been around for a long  L  O  N  G  time, like thousands of years so I read.  Most folks associate aloes as being the "burn" plant. Imagine you're taking fresh roasted veggies out of the oven and you accidentally burn your hand in the process. (blasted oven mit!! Where'd that hole come from?!)  So you immediately perform first aid by running cool tap water over the burn then you apply aloe after drying off the area and go about your culinary business.

Now as I began reading about aloe, I've come across some pretty cool information that I think you'd enjoy reading.* I may even make a mini-blog series about this topic as for some insane reason I'm really getting into reading about the history and seeing just what else I can dig up! So give your aloes plenty of sunshine and only water sparingly and there now I've suggested how to keep them happy - on to more goodies!

Did you know that Aloe Vera is one of about 420 species of the genus or class of Aloe? Its legitimate name according to the international rules of botanical nomenclature (never even HEARD of such an entity until this moment!) is A. vera (L).  Burm.f. Pretty cool, eh? The country of Sudan, located of course in Africa and bordered by Egypt, Somalia and the Nile, is believed to be its origin. In addition aloe was used by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Mediterranean civilizations and people living in biblical times. A Mesopotamian clay tablet dating back to ca 210 BCE records the healing virtues of aloe and records going back as far as ca 1550 BCE have even been found. But it wasn't until 1820 when aloe vera was officially listed as a purgative and skin protectant by the U. S. Pharmacopeia.

Now I'm experiencing full-tilt research mode right now! Who in the Sam hill are the U.S. Pharmalacula? Turns out this publication is the complete culmination of notable scientific botanical field studies documenting plants and their therapeutic benefits and uses to include their strength, purity and formulation. Lo and behold the first edition was compiled in 1820 and was pretty much the legal standard bearer for plant terminology by the National Food and Drug Act in January 1907.

I could bounce down into that rabbit hole swimming in the facts surrounding how the FDA has evolved, which goes deep down into murky waters of greed and scandal, but suffice to say this governing entity was born out of the much needed "Pure Food Movement," intended to regulate the use of tonics, drugs (opium, morphine, heroine and cocaine) and chemical food preservatives like borax and formaldehyde. It also laid the foundation for our present day Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that Congress originally passed in 1938. Its interesting to note that one Mr. William R. Carter was one of the earliest African-American FDA employees. Carter was hired as a cook and waiter for the Poison Squad in 1902, earned a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry and served 43 years in the FDA laboratories. (considering its still National Black History Month honoring Carter seems more than fitting) I am very interested in delving into just what was the Pure Food Movement and may need to revisit this at a later date. Today's FDA regulates far more than just a little witch hazel tonic to include sanitation, poison control, tobacco, alcohol, the safety of household chemical products, appliances, toys, and other consumer goods.

According to the FDA, consumer protection has always been its core mission. By in large that's likely the case, at least at its conception, but I have my own suspicious. For those of you who know me you know I can't talk about the FDA without mentioning this conundrum. All one needs to do is research the past twenty or so years worth of Commissioners employed at the FDA. With what companies did they work for prior to the FDA employment?  Many have enjoyed "yo-yoing" positions with between the FDA, USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and notable biotech companies and affiliates. They're all snug and cozy in a satiny California king-sized bed with big ag companies - so exactly in whose best interests the FDA truly represent?**     

Yet I digress! So, what's that magical ingredient in aloe that helps soothe a minor burn? According to the NIH, aloe vera contains over 75 potentially biologically active compounds including vitamins, minerals, polysaccahrides, amino acids, enzymes, lignin and a bunch of other stuff I can't even pronounce let alone spell.  But in particular aloe contains polyphenolic compounds which may act as anti-oxidants and inhibit cellular free radicals. So basically all in all these properties work together to help the whole. It's also note worthy to mention that the commercial extraction and processing of aloe could result in a product with little to no active ingredients! So having your own plant and using it when the need arises is logically a no-brainer.

When the need arises and you want to apply fresh aloe to a burned area its best to administer first aid treatment protocol then apply the aloe.  Avoid putting ice directly on a burn because cellular damage on a micro level can occur. Just use cool tap water over the area then pat dry. Firmly grip a stem from the lowest part of the plant generally by the dirt and gently break it off from the main branch.  Use the open end first and cut a two inch segment off. Now cut that piece in half length wise to form a "band-aid" of sorts. Gently massage the clear liquid gel and plant material onto the wound. Allow the area to dry. Wrap the remaining piece in plastic wrap and store for later use in the refrigerator. It will keep for quite awhile until it begins drying out.

Now on to a few pictures of my humble aloe collection.   :D

Checkerboard Aloe aptly named  

Beware of the mezmorizing Sparkleitis effect!
Aloe Vera, Blizzard and Sunset Aloe (left to right)
That taupe pot which is home to my aloe vera (acquired as a surplus plant through a dear friend named Ruth) was hand thrown by a Pittsburgh PA potter located in the Strip District (NOT what you think ~ http://www.neighborsinthestrip.com/)

So that's it for this week! Perhaps I'll continue next weeks blog with more on the Pure Food Movement .... who knows! Until then, have a good week and may happiness be a ray of sunshine to your body, mind and soul.

Shasta Blog Bomb!

*Herbal Medicine: Bimolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edition

**many thanks to the FDA.gov link where you can find nearly everything there is to know about everything (except for spam that is) and shocking information about AED's!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice Ice Baby!

After being awoken early this morning as pellets of frozen rain peppered the window I wasn't surprised by what my eyes saw this morning. Yep Mother Nature spritzed us with this winters first icy blast! With little affinity for the long winters up North frosty blasts like this left me quickly disgusted fairly early on .... like by December! But this morning the icy sparkle and shimmer was like seeing an old friend. With a steamy cup of ginger tea in hand to sip lets explore the frozen Fayetteville Celtic Garden. (please refrain from eating your boots Lord Franklin!)

Oh how she sleeps! The rosemary is ice covered which protects it from the cold wind. But given the weight of the ice I shook it off with a rake to prevent the branches breaking. Plus I gave her and the others a good hydrating drink well before the storm hit. Watering the soil helps release moisture into the air that surrounds the root system, theoretically keeping it a little warmer during a cold spell.
Water your plants thoroughly before nightfall. The soil will release moisture into the air around your plants during the night, keeping the air somewhat warmer. - See more at: http://blog.gardenharvestsupply.com/2008/09/16/how-to-cover-plants-for-frost-protection/#sthash.B52UsG9e.dpuf
Water your plants thoroughly before nightfall. The soil will release moisture into the air around your plants during the night, keeping the air somewhat warmer. - See more at: http://blog.gardenharvestsupply.com/2008/09/16/how-to-cover-plants-for-frost-protection/#sthash.B52UsG9e.dpuf
Water your plants thoroughly before nightfall. The soil will release moisture into the air around your plants during the night, keeping the air somewhat warmer. - See more at: http://blog.gardenharvestsupply.com/2008/09/16/how-to-cover-plants-for-frost-protection/#sthash.B52UsG9e.dpuf

Hard to imagine that in forty-five days this honeysuckle will be in her glory, in full bloom, just in time to welcome the hummingbirds back.

Now this little horsetail is well rooted in my water feature and partly shielded from the wind by the cold frame which appears to be sufficient protection and sustenance. Hard to believe its still alive but there it is. (if you lean in you'll hear it singing "Ain't that Tough Enough")

In the next photo you'll notice that some camellias are totally iced over .....

 ..... while others appear to have bloomed recently. This one was well protected by the ice covered overhanging branches.

While there's no sign of the Faux Aloe above ground, I'm told this plant has a long tap root and still has a fighting chance of survival. Let's keep our fingers crossed! Meanwhile the ice has left a dazzling finger-like effect on the santolina.

Yes, they were so stunning both divas demanded posting
Well that wraps us this weeks frozen edition of Fayetteville Celtic Garden. Now excuse me while I go and order me some 'mater seeds! Stay warm and beware - we're in for possible single-digit overnight temps tomorrow night (Wednesday) so use the utmost precautions and take care of those furry outdoor friends!

Until next time, may happiness be a ray of sunshine in your body, mind and soul.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ahhhh Balmy February ..... You Tease Us So!

So its February 9th but you'd never know it considering the beautiful balmy weather we've had here the past two days! Honey bees were buzzing about and the neighborhood streets were full of ambitious folks walking dogs or riding bikes catching a breath of fresh spring-like air.  But winter isn't finished with us yet as a cold front is blowing in as I type. Spring can't be too far behind though - the grape hyacinths are blooming in a pot out on the deck!

So this week's topic of interest is:  plant abuse (da da daaa!) We all know one them - those simpletons who through no fault of their own kill more plants than the wake of PepĂ© Le Pew's odorous spray. Its been told that even silk flowers reach an untimely demise in the hands of such folk!

Enter Kalanchoe stage right
Don't worry, if you happen to be one of those said plant abusers not only are you in good company but have I got a plant for you! Consider the Kalanchoe. (pronounced Kalencoo) Its a succulent and apparently there's a wide variety of plants in this particular species so you'd have lots of varieties to choose from. Generally speaking, succulents can thrive indoors requiring little to no water except when blooming is about to take place.  They love southern light exposure although mine sits near the patio doors facing east but is still thriving. During the winter months - their dormancy period - they prefer their climate be on the cooler side as they gear up for their yearly blooming extravaganza.  But I'll leave the fine details up to the experts!

This sweet plant definitely displays leaves characteristic of succulents. I love these burnt-red scalloped edges. Notice the root ball on this plant in the next photo. At the time the root ball was dry as a bone. This plant's got some serious will power to thrive considering my utter lack of attention towards it.

Poor gal really needs to be transplanted!
And then I took notice of the buds.........

Now the above photo is a week old. My hope in forcing the bloom this week took place after giving this dear plant a good soak in the "tub" yesterday.  I placed the pot in a bowl of tepid water and let her drink 'til her hearts content.  This simple effort was well worth the reward for today she bloomed!

Plants are a lot like our bodies. They thrive best when their needs are met but some will withstand considerable levels of abuse before finally throwing in the towel.

This plant reminds me a little of myself.  (Remember, I'm on a "Wild" journey this year. I've actually named it "Wild Indigo.") I can thrive in life, even while being rooted up in a ball of negativity, but only up to a certain point.  I'm just budding, not blooming. There's a process of letting go of negative things previously held on to, dealing out some forgiveness to myself and to others, which has really empowered me.  Replacing my mind's negative self-chatter with positive affirming thoughts about who I am is unveiling the beautiful woman I'd forgotten I am. Those buds are getting what they need to create a new life in which I can do nothing else but bloom and shine.

So maybe after this little gal is done blooming I'll give her a much needed spa makeover! Who knows what she'll look like next year with a bit more effort on my part to give her what she really needs.

Life is good!

Until next week, may happiness be a ray of sunshine in your mind, body and soul.


P.S. For you local yokels, Sonshine Soaps are curing and will be available for sale by February 21st!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Six More Weeks ~ Oy Vey!

So the cheaters (ahem, I mean the Patriots - did I really say that out loud?) won the Super Bowl and Punxy Phil has predicted another six weeks of winter. Well, duh!! I never really understood how the poor guy COULDN'T see his own shadow with the myriad of lights shining on him bouncing off the drifts of snow at o'dark ridiculous!!

Now on to this weeks blog. I've got a secret obsession.  Everyone has least one. So by the time you're finished reading I know you'll know one of mine. (Take the RED pill Neo!)

Never fear dear readers, for although all may seem bleak following the prediction of another six weeks of winter, all you need to do is go to plan B: it's catalog season!!! No, I'm not talking about Pier One, Victoria's Secret or Northern Tool. I'm talkin gardening catalogs. (otherwise known as garden porn!)  If you're like me you've not only received a slew of them in the mail but have poured over each page wiping off the drool from the corners of your mouth as you turn page by page imagining what this year's garden will look like! (Whew ~ is it getting hot n here or is it just me?!) Last month going to the mailbox was such a treat for nearly every day a new publication would appear. It was like Christmas all over again!

If you have a garden this time of year, depending on where you live, it might be sleeping under six feet of snow. Here's a snapshot of mine. BTW: that green blob on the lower left is my mother rosemary who's braved this cold winter vigorously, pretty much sticking it to the man - Old Man Winter that is!

Sleeping Celtic Garden

Now back to those catalogs.  I love the hunt for unusual plants, especially ones which are colorful, medicinal in nature and rare.  After going through at least 15 catalogs, page by lovely page, drooling over pictures and puking over prices (figuratively, not literally) a seed list was compiled. I listed the plant, catalog item number, catalog page number, if the seed was organic or heirloom, days until germination and price per packet. That last one - price per packet- gets a bit crazy.  Some companies list their seed price per ounce while others per gram and yet others by the number of seds in the packet. Obviously the smaller the seed the more of them will be in the packet. In fact I saw listings for squash (typically big seeds compared to say a poppy seed) for nearly $9.00 a packet but to be fair it was a rare variaty.  So really for me it's pretty much a gamble. Yea, not having a standard cost across the board for seeds is understandable as seeds vary in size plant to plant, but you'd think there's be a better way for cost comparison sake! Going into great detail on the seed list is anal, undoubtedly, but there's a method to the madness kids! It makes for easy future reference for planning purposes.  

Now I'm leaning heavy on seed companies whose plant varieties are tried and true for our hot humid summer climate. You should too. Be sure to buy the seed varieties best suited for your growing duration and climate.  Living in the South has its perks as far as the growing season is concerned.  Not so much the fact that we have a longer summer growing season but really because we can grow year round.  Our summers can be bloody hot and more humid that a flippin sauna! So growing plant varieties for said conditions is an area I'm tweaking as an urban gardener.  It's all a work in progress. Sometimes more than one vendor carries those varieties so getting the right seeds or plants for the right price becomes the name of the game.  So much so the initial seed list was over a hundred different plants totaling over $300.00. Now I love the game, don't get me wrong.  But after some whittling and bargaining with me myself and I, the list became complete.  I think.  Well, maybe I'll wind up sticking a few more listings on the plate.  After all ....... developing the this year's garden requires imagination, creativity, strategy and above all risk.  But that's the beauty of the game. 

After the list was compiled, I gotta admit I felt sad that the game was over. It's like reading the last page in that book you couldn't put down for days and days and now the final chapter is read and the storyline complete. *SIGH* But NOW the REAL FUN begins! Getting those seeds to germinate and grow while holding Mother Nature's hand in the process is such a thrill for me! I can't wait to share with you how my garden grows this year.  ; )

FYI: Seed companies that won out for me this year include Territorial, Bakers Creek and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  Check out a few links here:

Now that pay day has arrived you'd better bet that a few bucks will be invested into my garden. The obsession is in full swing and until next week, I leave with you a few more gifts from Mother Nature's bounty in the garden and surrounding property.

Look at that face!!

A patch of spinach defies Old Man Winter!

The shadow is a branch on the Bridal Wreath shrub. Loved the close up of this pic too much not to post.

Be sure to check in next week when we discuss seeds, plants and such philosophical questions as: where does the ancient Chinese secret Calgon take us away to anyway?

Until then may happiness be a ray of sunshine in your mind, body and soul!