Thursday, May 22, 2008

Realizations and Rhubarb

It was the Victoria Day weekend, the first "long" weekend of summer, or what passes for that season in much of Canada. And, to our delight, our children managed to shake off the shackles of commerce and spend the weekend with us.

The realization part of this post is that it hit me after the kids left that though I love them as much as I did when they were tiny, I have reached the point where I see them as adults who no longer need "mothering". I can enjoy their company without feeling responsible for them. It's a good emotional place to be.

Though we have had a very cool spring, a heat wave moved in just in time for the weekend. We had sunny skies and warm temperatures. Highlights of the weekend were; (in no particular order)

A lengthy late evening talk with Ian, just the two of us, sitting in the garden. A bat noticed the porch light and came by to check for insects. We didn't actually see the bat but we saw its shadow. Ian said there were several gliding around the light poles the previous night. He could hear their squeaking as they echo-located their prey. Not many people can hear the high frequency calls emitted by bats. Ian must have inherited that from me. I can hear very high noises which most people don't notice at all.

A second highlight was a long walk by the lake with Zak. There is a nicely developed path which runs through a range of micro-ecosystems, from sand and sagebrush all the way to marsh and creek. Along the way many of the wild plants were blooming or pushing madly towards bloom. At one time there was a house along this path.

They must have had a lovely garden, for many "domesticated" species have escaped and naturalized into the woods. For example the lilies are coming up in profusion, their robust stalks and folded leaves a faint promise of the glories to come.

The rhubarb is miles ahead of the lilies. There are many huge plants with dozens of smaller volunteers surrounding them. The leaves uncurl from the center with the complexity of waves breaking on shore. Currant bushes and roses have simply run riot. None are blooming yet but the scene will be spectacular when they do.

Wisteria vines wind through the trees, wrapped like shaggy package twine around and around trunks and branches. It's in bloom right now, heavy with purple and white pendants. Wild catnip grows in pungent profusion. I plucked a pocketful of leaves for Salvador. He usually eats a couple of leaves and I dry the rest for later. This time I emptied my pocketful on the floor and he ate every last one! He then staggered to the bed in happy bliss and snored away the rest of the afternoon.

The Mahonia, or Oregon Grape Holly is also in bloom. These are beautiful native plants which make spectacular garden plants, if you can find one in a nursery. Oregon grape is also extremely useful in herbal medicine. It stimulates the flow of bile and is often used to treat jaundice, hepatitis, poor intestinal tone and function, and general gastrointestinal dysfunction. The berberine alkaloid, a constituent of Oregon grape, has been shown to be of benefit for some patients with cirrhosis of the liver.

Oregon grape is also used to treat colds, flu, and numerous infections. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to kill or suppress the growth of some of the nastiest disease-causing microbes: Candida and other fungi, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, E. coli and numerous others. Berberine inhibits the ability of bacteria to attach to human cells, which helps prevent and treat infections.

The mullein is one of the first plants up. It has pretty furry rosettes of leaves which beg to be touched. Mullein was originally an English garden flower which escaped cultivation in Colonial times and has spread right across the continent. It is another enormously useful plant in the herbalist's arsenal. The leaves, brewed into a tea, are an excellent treatment for asthma or stomach and bowel complaints. If you simmer the flowers gently in olive oil in a double boiler and then strain the oil it is wonderful for treating ear infections. Doctors are now recommending that children's ear infections not be treated with antibiotics, and mullein flower oil is a natural alternative which eases both the pain and clears infection. The flower oil can also be used to treat cold sores and hemorrhoids.

Other native plants which were growing along the path or in the marsh included; tansy, wild carrot, cattail rushes, rabbit brush, Saskatoon bushes, scouring rushes, horsetail grass, false Solomon's seal, lamb's quarters (an excellent green vegetable at this time of the year), yellow salsify, goldenrod, mountain sorrel, rose root, stork's bill and others I can't recall off-hand.

Zak and I made our way slowly down the half mile circuit and back, touching, smelling, examining, and enjoying the plants we saw along the way. We saw Canada Geese, plovers, rusty blackbirds and red-winged blackbirds, barn swallows, and a yellowthroat (I saw it, he didn't). The crowning bird sighting was a trio of American Avocets, birds I'd never seen before, standing at the edge of the water. I had my bird glass with me so we were able to observe them closely. Gorgeous!

I didn't get one-on-one time with Mandy, but we did have a nice visit in the last hours before they left. She's a creative and spirited young woman who is always embroiled in a project.

The only regrets for the weekend are that Tony wasn't feeling very well, and I had a terrific migraine on Saturday. The kids all had things to do but it made me miss a bbq Mandy's grandparents hosted in Penticton. This means I didn't get the chance to visit with Mandy's mom, Carol, who I haven't seen since we left Calgary. :(

I guess there's no perfection in this world, but aside from those disappointments this weekend came close.


Anonymous said...

glad you had some time to visit and catch up with your offspring. Hope Tony is feeling better soon.

Outhouse Capital of Canada said...

Can I come and get the rhubarb, goes great with strawberries in a pie
Hi, Im back, we had a great trip, watch for pics on the blog