Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Gardening’

Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

Fresh Beauty, Heavenly

From this morning’s garden:

Snowdrops with Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocus, March 19, 2010

Life is Tough

As we move along in the barn renovation project, the electrician is ready to do the trenching for burying the power lines. A couple of days ago, I spoke with him about this part of the process. So where does that trench have to go? Directly through my herb garden. Ouch!

This is a garden I’ve slowly been developing – starting plants from seeds, rejoicing when after two years flowers appear, adding a few new varieties each year, looking forward to working there again in the spring. I  was surprised at how bereft I felt at the thought of the trencher going through that garden. I asked the electrician if I could tie ribbons on plants to be avoided, which at this time of year are nothing but bare twigs sticking out of the snow. And naturally, most of the plants are not visible at all in January. He said, “of course!” Then I began wondering if I could dig up some of the plants with no obvious growth showing, but all the life is currently in their roots. Would they survive the digging process?

Before I could make any decisions, some other events distracted me. My mother who lives with me, age 92, wasn’t feeling well. For her to even mention such a thing is a big deal; she’s always afraid she’s going to be a bother to me. Mothers! I’m just relieved she’s right here so that I can take care of her as needs arise, instead of driving hundreds of miles, as some of my friends must, to take care of their aging parents! So I made a doctor appointment for her, but just before we were to leave for that appointment today, she fell down the stairs. Oh, my.

As it turned out, she was justified in not feeling well; she has an infection. And because she had her puffy winter coat in her arms when she fell on the stairs, the tumble just resulted in bruises – we hope! We are waiting for the phone call with x-ray results.

After getting her settled back at home with her prescriptions, I took a little stroll out back. There was the snowy herb garden, waiting for me to tie ribbons on the bare sticks. Somehow it didn’t seem so urgent. I found myself thinking, “Well, with that plant gone, I could move this plant over here, and put a new one there….” I also remembered that plants are tough; their life force can be very strong. I’m not as concerned about my garden now (but I may yet use a couple of strategically placed ribbons).

My mother has a wonderful attitude. She’s a tough old lady, who always makes them laugh at the doctor’s office. I hope that when I’m 92 I will bear my ills with as much grace as she does! She teaches me about resilience, about keeping a sense of humor, about taking in stride all that comes with old age (which isn’t for sissies). She especially teaches me about life’s strength and tenaciousness. Life is tough. And I love it.