Two Rivers & the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

A letter from activist and ecologist Paula Palmer.

Dear Friend,

For the Haudenosaunee people, words of thanks are the “words that come before all else” — not just during this season, but in all their activities and gatherings. I’ll attach their beautiful traditional Thanksgiving Address. You may want to make it part of your Thanksgiving blessings this year. I like passing it around the dinner table so that everyone can read a paragraph or two aloud.

I’m feeling deep gratitude to you for supporting my work “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples” over the past few years. It has grown and deepened with the participation of 10 Native American workshop facilitators and more than 70 non-Natives who are now offering workshops through their own circles around the country. A recent workshop participant expressed our hopes for this work beautifully:

“I can feel the Mother energy rising up from below to inform, smile upon, and bless these initiatives so we may hear, remember, heal in truth together, so we may return to our wholeness and relatedness.”

We are challenged now to raise funds to support three new efforts —

1- We’re creating a new website that will offer positive examples and models for taking concrete steps toward right relationship with Native peoples. It will be inspiring and motivating and doable!

2- We’re coordinating a community process in Boulder CO to build right relationship with the Southern and Northern Arapaho tribes that were banished from their Boulder Valley homeland 150 years ago. On our visits to these tribes in Oklahoma and Wyoming, Ava Hamilton (Arapaho), Jerilyn DeCoteau (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and I heard how they long for a place in the Boulder Valley where they can gather, camp, pray, collect medicinal plants, have sweat lodges, and bring teachings to the people who live here now. We are bringing their voices to City government, churches, and organizations, and hope to host delegations from the tribes to visit here next year.

3- National Quaker organizations (Friends General Conference, Ben Lomond Quaker Center, Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center) are asking me to take next steps beyond my presentation on the “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing our History and Ourselves.” Now the Religious Society of Friends needs to discern how we can contribute toward healing the wounds that Native communities continue to suffer from the history of forced assimilation by means of the Indian boarding schools.

If you are moved to support these efforts with a tax-deductible financial contribution, it will be much appreciated and carefully used. You may send a check to Boulder Friends Meeting (please write “Right Relationship” on the memo line) and mail to: Treasurer, Boulder Friends Meeting, PO Box 4363, Boulder CO 80306, or donate online at (please write “Right Relationship” in the “purpose” box).

Words Before All Else:
Greetings to the Natural World

The Thanksgiving Address (the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. The Haudenosaunee open and close every social and religious meeting with the Thanksgiving Address.

It is also said as a daily sunrise prayer, and is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World. The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.

The Thanksgiving Address
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give our greetings and our thanks to one another as people. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the spirit of Water. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn toward the Plants. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give our thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life continue for many generations to come. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn to all the Medicine plants of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind we send our greetings and our thanks to the Medicines, and to the keepers of the Medicines. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We gather our minds together to send our greetings and our thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we pray that this will always be so. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Tree life. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds — from the smallest to the largest — we send our joyful greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Four Winds. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunders live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunders. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We now send our greetings and our thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Brother, the Sun. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We give our thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewels. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send our greetings and our thanks for the Stars. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE


Let’s Not Forget Puerto Rico/No nos olvidemos de Puerto Rico

For all the tragedies that have landed on these shores, there has been help — eventually. But Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, has been stranded (not to say insulted) by the U.S. president and the United States government and its entities that might bring the island back to health.

Please consider donating and helping in any way that you can.

Puerto Rico Resilience Fund – 24 Months
The future of Puerto Rico will be formed through solidarity brigades, groups of people forming communities on farms. Farmers helping farmers. Volunteers learning as they do. Consumers and Communities supporting the food they will eat.

As the hurricane came, agroecological farm brigades became an effective way to access, clean up, prepare, and grow.

Many volunteers both in Puerto Rico and from around the world are looking for ways to help. Hosting volunteers is not an easy task for a farmer in need. La Guagua Solidaria is a mobile tool for organizing solidarity brigades at different farms, with different groups of volunteers, the necessary equipment, and a calendar.

Your gift to the Puerto Rico Food Revival Fund will go to help families and communities recover from the recent hurricanes that have devastated the lives of so many. Our goal is to help those who were affected rebuild and restore their homes, communities, environment, and lives.

Departamento de la Comida in Puerto Rico. – A grassroots organization powering local regional-food systems including sustainable farming practices and farmers markets.They are committed to providing food and relief for those affected due to the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Thank you for your generous support in the recovery PR families and communities.
What do we need?
A bus or more!
Mobile Kitchen
Camping equipment
Mobile tool shed
Tools: chainsaws, woodchopper, drill, gloves, hammers, saws, seed germination table materials, saran, solar cube for recharging tools and others
Seeds for sharing
Wellness kits for farmers and communities
Communication station (wifi, computer, charger, hard drive and others
Americas for Conservation + Arts and its Latina Environmental Giving Circle, in partnership with various organizations have launched the Puerto Rico Resilience Fund – 24 Months with Departamento de la Comida to power the restoration and the establishment of local sustainable food systems and reforestation of decimated forests; incubate authentic civic engagement through mobilization of “solidarity brigades” (small groups mobilized for the cleaning phase, planting phase, and overall education of farmers communities on sustainable practices); mobilize Promotores Verdes from multiple organizations as part of the brigades and the envisioning of restoration efforts past 24 months; create self sustaining farms that are autonomous and efficient with irrigation systems, including rainwater collection techniques & clean solar energy; chronicle and document the relief and rebuild efforts to use as a model of resilient communities’ ability to rebuild in the face of climate change destruction.
The Guagua Solidaria will work on a weekly schedule for 24 months, beginning the last week of November (accessible online).
It will visit 2 -4 farms each week.
The individual farm needs and location will be taken into account while planning the schedule.
The schedule will include the volunteers and resources needed that week.
The volunteers will detail their skills, and will sign up for a particular brigade/farm (accessible online)
How the Guagua Solidaria will work?
How can you help?
Spread the Word
Check our Calendar
Social Media Guidance

Sponsorship Opportunities
La Guagua. Ecológica. Solidaria. Puertorriqueña
The solidarity Brigade EcoBus: Cultivating the Future

Rooster Call and Pokeberry Ink

by Mimi Hedl

I’ve spent many a year honing my rooster voice. It came into service when I went down to Georgia for a family visit. My daughter had asked me if I’d want to talk to my grandson’s kindergarten class about farming on Strawdog. “Why not?” I said, “sounds like fun.” Then I began to scratch my head: “Just what will I say?”

I’d sent Brady a turkey wing feather for his birthday, a talisman, I told him. Then I mentioned to my daughter, to tell Brady we could sharpen the feather for a quill. He liked that. “What about ink?” he said. HMMM, I thought. When put on the spot, the gears start to spin, and our sluggish mind comes up with wonderful ideas. I’d make ink out of pokeberries, the children could write their names in magenta ink, and know one of the inks the early colonists used.

This idea percolated in mid-October. We hadn’t had rain for weeks. I found a small handful of berries around the farm. I’d have to go on an expedition for more berries. I walked down to Mitch’s and checked around his decrepit barn. Another small handful, all the rest dried up. Then I walked up the long, steep hill to Helmig’s. Poke berries grow in rich soil, in full sun.

My dear neighbors, bless them, have no compulsion for neatness. The world becomes their dump. I stumbled and crawled over dead tires, washing machines, abandoned bicycles, car parts, computer accessories and oodles of aluminum cans, old milk jugs. They’d become part and parcel of the land, grass growing over and through them, making my trek nearly impossible. But therein grew the pokeberries! All around this abandoned effluvium.

Forgetting my bad hip, I plundered in, stretching and reaching for the plump, ripe beautiful berries. Pierce one, receive a lovely stain, a dot in between my eyes, streaks on my face. Yahoo!! Before long, I have a half gallon, surely enough to make ink for 40 small ones to write their names. Careful not to fall and dump the berries, I look up and pause.

Oh my. Suddenly it comes back. Thirty-five years ago, we used this once majestic barn as storage. We watched Roy breed the draft horses, the mules turn the sorghum mill. All a memory now, as Roy and Viola have long ago disappeared, and the children and grandchildren no longer have time to keep it up. What once looked loved, looks abandoned, part of the past. Like Strawdog will look someday.

When the past unexpectedly visits us, we honor the moment, but don’t dwell. Flooded with memories, I keep moving, afraid the past will capture me and not let loose. I need to safely carry these poke berries down the hill, up the hill, and on to Strawdog. Come on legs, let’s go.

Poke berries grow in a cluster like grapes. Each berry has lots of seed. The birds eat the berries and dispense the seeds, making poke weed a common sight in farm yards and gardens. As I take the berries off the clusters, juice drips from my fingers, onto the grass. Once I have all the berries in a bowl, I squeeze the berries until I’ve crushed them all. Then I put the juice, seeds and skins in a strainer, and squeeze them dry. I put the pulp in a sauce pan with some water and make a grade B ink. The uncooked, unadulterated juice becomes my prime in, grade A.

So I have poke berry ink and turkey wing feathers, a few peacock feathers, a tanned rabbit hide, a racoon’s pelvic bone, 4 kinds of beans in the shell for the children to open, photos of our donkeys and chickens and pigs and cows and even one of Ron holding a snake longer than him, rescued from the chicken house. Jeremy brings me an entire turkey’s tail feathers, a fan, a beautiful thing. Along with the poke berry ink, I should have enough to entertain the children. And don’t forget, I have my rooster call!

The morning arrives. I’m on for 9:30AM. Hilary took off the day. JoAnne, her mother-in-law, will come too. Gulp. I don’t plan anything. How can you prepare for such young ones? I have lots of props and my voice. I’ve lived in this world. I know it inside out.

ERrrr-errr-err-errr-err! (a rooster’s morning greeting) begins my talk. All the children repeat it, over and over, and away we go, a day on the farm. It unfolds perfectly. Everything works out. Everyone wants to touch and hold the props, we pass around and around. They loved the rabbit hide and didn’t ask me how I got it. I’d worried about that one. They look and look at the photographs, until we finally put them all on a table, for them to look at later. They love knowing how to catch a snake and where to put your head when you milk a cow. They have more questions, more comments, and stories!!

I have plenty of help writing with the quill, five teachers, my daughter and her mother-in-law. They have two quills and I hear them instructing the children. I sit at another table with ten children and have each of them open a seed pod and see what’s inside. They want to do more. They love the colors. They like the names. Christmas lima, agate pinto, black turtle, and Anasazi. Even the teachers want to open a pod.

I give garden seeds to Ms. O’Connor, Brady’s teacher, the turkey tail feather, the quill, the poke berry ink (a security nightmare on my flight) and a peacock feather for good luck. The children hoot and holler, having done donkey, horse, chicken, pig, cow and rooster calls, they feel in good company and Ms. O’Connor is beside herself with appreciation. Brady’s delighted. Claims me as his one and only, and what grandma wouldn’t melt at such adulation?

Season of Spirits: November 2017

by Nan DeGrove

Jupiter in Scorpio
All Soul’s Day November 2nd
Full Moon in Taurus November 3rd

Jupiter moves into Scorpio on October 11th where it remains until November 8th, 2018. With this Jupiter cycle, we want to learn and know more about the hidden energies and patterns beneath the surface of our relationships and the social issues of our times. Scorpio is a sign of mystery and secrecy as well as power, sex and money. Jupiter is about justice, and the light of truth, the lamp of knowledge, which must be guarded and restored when the abyss of darkness threatens, whether despair is personal or societal. We have seen Jupiter in action with the recent exposure of sexual abuse and other misdeeds by men in positions of power, as well as the investigation of the murky aura around our current president and his allies. It also speaks to the release of censored information pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy, whose spirit and death trauma still haunt the American psyche.

This is an excellent time to study philosophy, history, metaphysics, and wisdom traditions of different cultures. The great teachers of humanity may speak to us through our dreams. Personal teachers may appear and reappear too, in different ways. Be grateful for all who have been teachers in your life.

With the Taurus full moon coming so soon after Hallowe’en and All Soul’s, the mystery and magic of this month is magnified. The veil between the worlds is gossamer thin, fluttering like a spider web in the autumn air. Scorpio brings a reckoning and release of the shadows of the past, while Jupiter gives us courage to embrace the future.

For this special time, I’ve written a brief comment for each sign.

Scorpio: Something is calling you—a mission, a project, a journey, a stand you take for truth? Whatever it is, it’s big. It will change your life in many ways you don’t yet realize, and have benefit for those around you.

Sagittarius: You’ve had two years of Saturn which have tested your faith. Now your energy is being renewed form a deep source, like a spring bubbling out of the earth. You need some solitude to contact this inner resource.

Capricorn: In the flow of life energies, you often pour out more than you allow yourself to receive, like tide going out, leaving dry sand. Now the tide of abundance and love is coming your way. As a teacher and friend, you are a treasure to others—recognize your worth.

Aquarius: A new door is opening in your life; you need to find it, as it is hidden. It leads to a fulfillment of some deep desire, yet the way may be blocked. Spend some time exploring this image. Where is it?

Pisces: You may feel like Alice (In Wonderland) in the Pool of Tears. Sorrow has lingered in your heart, but the call of Jupiter in Scorpio awakens something new in your soul. It has to do with learning, teaching, using your talents, realizing a dream.

Aries: Your will and determination has brought you through a time of trial and error. Jupiter in Scorpio activates a magnetism that attracts new opportunities and abundance. Time to share the precious knowledge you have gathered.

Taurus relates to the third eye, the pineal gland, which is light-sensitive and maintains circadian rhythms and hormonal functions. It is also the center of inner vision and illumination. Starlight, moonlight, sunlight, candle light—take in a much light as you can to support health and happiness.

Gemini: Jupiter in Scorpio portends a change in work life, and an improvement in health. Something that has been dormant is waking up; an energy block from the past is released. Mercury, your special planet, brings helpful people just when you need them.

Cancer: You need intimacy and understanding from those you love, as you are a mystery to yourself now, in some ways. Wear pearls or moonstones to help illuminate the confusion in your heart. Something is ending.

Leo: Your ancestors speak to you through your dreams and longings. They are ghosts who watch over you and celebrate your success, your gifts, which are their legacy. Light candles for them this month.

Virgo: Like Leo you are close to your ancestors and angels now, and finding meaning and messages through your dreams. Jupiter draws you to new areas of study, perhaps alchemy or depth psychology.

Libra: Once, long ago, Libra and Scorpio were merged into one sign: the Scales in the Scorpion’s Claws. Scorpio is your twin sign, the daemon (angel) who accompanies you through life, and keeps you close to your soul and the primal forces of rebirth.

Season’s Blessings,
You can read these monthly commentaries on my website,

Time to Say Goodbye

by Mimi Hedl

The wind howled last night. It dipped to 46°. I needed socks to stay warm on the summer kitchen. I especially savored the night, as soon I’ll retreat to the upstairs bedroom, and will patiently wait until I can continue camping out with the wind, the stars and night critters.

Today I dressed in two sweat shirts and wore gloves. I pulled my hood up and tightly secured it. Moving quickly, I picked the garden, gleaning all the peppers, tomatoes with some red*, tomatillos, and beans that’ll go the way of all flesh, soon, very soon. I also picked two large green tomatoes for the last decadent indulgence, fried green tomatoes.

*(Years ago I learned that unless a tomato has some red, or lycopene, visible, the tomato will never ripen to taste like a tomato. Yes, it will turn red, but will lack flavor. Now I pitch the green ones into my wheel barrow and haul them to the compost. Of course you can make mock apple pie, green tomato pickles, which my mother loved, chutney, relish and all sorts of other delights. I have no time this autumn, I leave in a day for Georgia.)

I bypassed the basil and zinnias. The freezer bulges with pesto. I hate to see any basil abandoned, but it too will grace the compost. If the zinnias survive the 36°, I’ll pick a bouquet tomorrow. My grandson loves flowers. He asks his mother to buy them when they go to the grocery store, so the bouquet goes to Logan.

The pineapple sage should survive a minor frost, as should the lemon verbena. But I covet lemon verbena tea, so I’ll pick that too. Whenever I leave Strawdog, I gaze lovingly around me. You never know what the future holds, and it feels good to honor the moment, to look fondly on what has captured your imagination for months, and years, really. As if by standing quietly, your focus will hold that vision and carry you through difficult moments.

The other warm evening, only a few nights ago, I watched the last two moon flowers open as I hustled in and out of the summer kitchen. I hadn’t taken the time to watch them open, and how like me to wait until the end of their flowering to witness the magic. Earlier that morning I’d taken a photograph, somehow knowing their time had come to an end.

Now for the fried green tomatoes, they must have NO red, pink, orange, yellow or purple. The tomatoes won’t fry up crisp if they have an inkling of ripeness. I like to slice them thinly, 1/16” or so, shake them in a bag with flour, and cook them in hot vegetable oil, just enough to coat the skillet. They don’t need to swim in oil. I make sure the oil sizzles before I add the coated tomatoes. I want to sear them. Then, when they had a golden finish, I turn them over and let them cook very slowly until they look crisp on the outside and soft and delectable inside.

Meanwhile I cook potatoes for mashed potatoes, make milk gravy. Then I arrange the scoop, a large scoop, of mashed potatoes on my plate, with a nice indentation for the gravy, display the tomatoes around the potatoes, put the gravy boat on the table and sit down and celebrate!

I can’t deny I don’t have a lump in my stomach, an ache, an anxiety as I watch another chapter closing. Good-byes don’t come easily. Jeremy will begin working on the humongous tree that came down in the tornado, and I’ll spend happy hours hauling brush, making faggots, noticing the bark of trees and the way the sun hits the hills. Somehow, it all feels good. We move from one season to the next, not sure what it will bring, ready for the challenge. Always hopeful.

The Big Dark

by Nita Hill

The wind came up yesterday. It was surprisingly fierce. The strongest wind I have ever experienced outside a chinook or tornado. I was painting a mural on the back of the house and dirt and sticks were flying around. Pine needles from two yards over. The wind even broke my Belamcanda lilies and at times knocked me off the step stool.

The mural on the back of the house, finished before the cold sets in.

The leaves have begun to change making my very ugly tree look it best and plants that had finished their bloom long ago have changed into pleasing colors. The peonies, Lysimachia, burning bushes and the Virginia creeper. As I trimmed things back, I saved the golden hosta to enjoy. They glow in the dusk light.

Fall began in earnest while we were away. A first-time trip to Southern Utah. Hundreds of miles of glorious landscapes. My favorite is the yellow aspen. There was only a little snow to set it off properly.

Before the wind, I had raked leaves to mow and add to the Xeric bed. They all blew next to the house under the patio. Western winds aim the clouds at the back of the house and the leaves follow. As I raked, I thought of the blessing of being a gardener. How else could you understand the cycle of things? Being a gardener is like being a midwife and a Hospice caregiver at the same time. You have to let things go and bring things into being with equanimity. It was such an extreme summer you welcome the plants dying back. They need to rest.

Building beds and de-grassing took us much of the summer. I now have a rock garden and a “Chinese garden” which will require years to come into its fullness.

The rock before.

The rock garden “after,” filling in.

I spent the rest of the summer expanding beds until I have them almost the size and shape I want. I have started at least a hundred perennials from seed and I now have most the beds full of lupines, coneflowers, foxgloves and my Belamcanda lilies, plus all the plants I purchased. I found the clearance table to be great. Fall is my favorite time for planting.

I divided day lilies, Liatris and peonies that had been lined up like soldiers and spread them around. After giving away a couple hundred strawberry plants I had loads of room. The “biggest” spring surprise was a 9-foot Delphinium. I really like it (although as Jenny reminded me I don’t usually like them) so I bought a packet of seed and now have six babies. My neighbor gave me loads of Columbine seed and I stole Baptisia and Asclepius seeds and put them in the nursery bed for the Xeric garden.

The beginnings of the Xeric garden.

I haven’t had a Xeric garden in years. Most Xeric plants like sun and it’s been several gardens ago since I had any significant sun. I took the sod I had set aside and covered sheets of cardboard with the upturned dead sod and began piling soil on top. By the spring all the grass underneath should be dead and the sod will have rotted and I should have a Xeric garden. Or at least that’s the plan. I need a rest too.

The wind brought the rain. Welcome rain. Driving back across Utah the horizon turned the sickening color of wildfire smoke. We had spent the first night on the road to Utah in Winnemucca, Nevada. The woman in the diner where we had breakfast kept yelling into the phone to some relative who must have told them not to return home. She told the waitress they were from Calistoga. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be told not to return home. This has been a year of fires and storms. My husband was in the insurance office the day after the Las Vegas shooting. The agent couldn’t concentrate because two of her relatives were at the concert and were out of contact. Would they return home?

The autumn has its own plans for us. A box of bulbs should be here soon and it seems like an eternity ago I ordered orange phlox on a whim. It should be here this weekend. There is mulching and deadheading and then the snow should come and then everything becomes as quiet as it can be.

The California Fires

By Rosie Wyatt

With these terrible fires burning I’m saddened by all the loss and want to do something to help. I’m going to donate to one of these groups helping animals so if you feel so inclined here is a good list.

California on Fire – What You Can Do
Our hearts and prayers go out to every one of our neighbors, two-legged and four, impacted by the deadly fires that are raging across the Golden State. From our Northern California partner communities of Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Yuba Counties to the Anaheim Hills fire in Orange County and several other devastating blazes throughout the state, we are saddened by the loss of life and property. At the same time, we are comforted by the support of the many emergency responders, support personnel, and volunteers who are saving lives, property, and pets.

Here are links to the latest information on the fires and some ways you can make a difference.

On the Northern California fires, evacuation centers and road closures from ABC 7 News, KGO-TV —

On the Anaheim Hills fire from ABC 7 News, KABC-TV

From Cal Fire
Cal Fire statewide fire map

EPA Bay Area air quality

How You Can Help/Pets
Many animal welfare organizations throughout the Bay Area and California supported the rescue organizations in Texas, Florida and beyond during the hurricanes that recently hit our country. Now, these same organizations are stepping up to assist our local neighbors with support and services. Here are a few:

Sonoma Humane Society is accepting stray and injured animals at their Santa Rosa shelter and is offering no-cost veterinary treatment for burn victims. You will find updates and more ways to help here. Use this page to make a donation to the Sonoma Humane Society.

Napa Humane is offering ongoing support and vet assistance to displaced animals in the Napa Valley area during this emergency. If you would like to support Napa Humane, please donate here.

The Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville are open for people and large animals. The Humane Society for Inland Mendocino County says all animals are safe and are beginning to come back to the shelter as the fire shifts. You can donate here.

Marin Humane is providing free, emergency boarding for pets of those who’ve been evacuated, and staffing the evacuation center at the Civic Center in San Rafael for pets and their people. They are grateful for the outpouring of offers of donations of food and supplies but at this time, the shelter is fully stocked. The best way to help them right now is to donate funds.

Rocket Dog Rescue in Oakland is urgently seeking foster homes and volunteers at their sanctuary in Oakland to help the animals displaced by the local fires.

Pets Lifeline in Sonoma has evacuated their animals to Marin Humane. Stay up to date on their status and please donate to support the great work they do in Sonoma County.

The Milo Foundation Sanctuary animals in Mendocino County have been evacuated to Willits High School but could return shortly. Milo Point Richmond is ready to receive animals displaced by the fires. Please help, foster, volunteer and donate, designating “Fire Evacuation Fund.”

Wine Country Animal Lovers, Petaluma Animal Services, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch and the Lake County Animal Care & Control LEAP animal disaster response group are all working hard to save and protect pets during this difficult time. Google their sites and please give generously.

More evacuation, donation, fostering and other fire-related information can be found on this Facebook group started by Becky Ewens. has posted a page with these and other resources plus ongoing updates.

How You Can Help/People
Red Cross:

For people forced from their homes since Sunday evening, the American Red Cross Northern California has been supporting evacuation centers and providing safe shelters while they wait until the danger has passed. There is no immediate need for volunteers at this point, but you can sign up online for updates, as more people may be needed in the coming days. You can donate to the Red Cross at any time here or make a one-time donation of $10, by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership:

The CVNL is so grateful for the generosity of volunteers who have stepped up to help as the fires continue. Click here to read about their current need for volunteers. At this time, the CVNL does not need donated items/goods at either location. If you’d like to give a monetary donation, you can do so here.

Bringing in the Seed

by Mimi Hedl

The rain and sudden cold snap probably took the few lingering monarchs by surprise. The asters, the traditional nectac plants for fall migration, didn’t last as long as usual because of a late summer drought, so tithonia, in garden rich soil, took over the role of nectar provider. At times, fifteen to twenty monarchs slurped from one enormous tithonia. Orange on orange. What a sight. I would not plant a garden without this life-saver, in fact, at Strawdog, a dozen plants grow over the ½ acre gardens.

Last year I saved enough tithonia seed to last for many years, though I may not resist picking one or two seed pods, breaking open the prickly receptacles, and looking at the quality of the seed. For new seed savers, noticing what the seed looks like, feels like, becomes important in knowing when to pick the seed, and if the seed has become viable, i.e. fertilized and grown to full plumpness.

In dry conditions, the seed pod may grow, but you will find either no seed inside the shriveled pod, or undeveloped seed. Take a bowl out to your chosen plant, break or cut off a seed pod in the bowl, then go sit down and look at what you find inside the pod. If you don’t remember what the seed looked like when you planted it, go check out the seed packet and compare the seeds. An important rule: never plant all of any one seed. Think of yourself as a preserver of genetic material. One never knows when a seed company will discontinue offering a seed and even seed saving organizations may fail you too.

Remember that many birds eat seeds. They begin to eat the seed out of the pods before the seed ripens, so sometimes, if you don’t have many flowers, you need to net the seed pods. I love to watch the finches and sparrows pull seeds out. Have you ever noticed all the abuse poppy seed pods endure? The birds rip open those salt and pepper shakers and leave an interesting artifact, fun to put in a bouquet for a friend to decipher. It took me years to catch a bird in the act and know just what happened to that poor poppy capsule.

Cleaned milk thistle seed

The house fills up with bags and bowls of seed, some partially cleaned, others waiting for the seed cleaner’s attention. I have two wooden bowls I use to winnow seed. Now I have American bell flower seed to clean. I’ll take the seed and bowls to a shady area I’d like the bell flower to grow in, when the wind seems neither too strong nor too weak. Dust-like seed of this bell flower, will blow away with a strong wind. But separating the seed from the chaff does take a bit of a breeze. I hold the bowl with the seed higher than the other bowl, and slowly pour the seed into the other bowl. You can watch the chaff blowing away and know it takes some of the seed too, so it seems wonderful to know the seed will go where you want it to.

This process will repeat itself in countless locations on the homestead. From the earliest years when I began to learn how to save seed, I always felt like an Indian maiden, out with the wind and the sun, preparing my family for the winter. My romantic streak stays with me, and now I’ve become the crone who does that work, even though I still see myself as the maiden.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching the guys up at Missouri Wildflower Nursery clean seed. They have barns filled with flower heads they feed into machines so loud you cannot stand by them and pick their brains, the guys’ brains. In fact, they stay so busy I feel grateful if one of my questions gets answered when they have to shut down the machine because it jammed. They have, over the thirty years, imparted tidbits as precious as jewels to me. How to clean individual seeds can perplex. A little experience goes a long way to enlightening neophytes. Ditto with how to propagate seed. Sometimes they use a blender to scarify seed!

For small quantities of seed, seed that will go in a packet, after I feel sure the seed has dried sufficiently, the packet will go in a plastic bag and into the freezer for a few days. This will kill any eggs laid on the seed while it dried. For larger quantities, I put the seeds in glass jars and leave them on the table on the summer kitchen. Soon enough, cold freezing weather will do the work for me. And I will leave the seed out there until spring. Perfect storage. I’ll cover the jars with a blanket to keep out the sun.

As I sit here, I pick beggar’s lice off my socks, my pants, my sweatshirt. It comes from a native legume, Desmodium canadense, also called showy trefoil (each leaflet composed of three leaves). I plow through the meadows and prairie grasses on a daily basis and always, regardless, forget I’ll pick up a slew of these seeds. Sometimes I’ll pick them off, throw them in a hot cast iron skillet, and nibble on them with a beer. They do taste good, but oh my, what a mess in the laundry!
Thankfully my wringer washer doesn’t object and when I drain the machine a good quantity of seed goes out with the water.

When someone says a name of a flower, a tree, a vegetable, my mind goes to the seed, what the seed looks like. If I don’t know the seed, I feel curious. For years I hung seed pods on nine lines near the book shelves of the library. Each line measured 10-feet long. Every new seed pod I fell in love with, would end up on the line. A Persian carpet sits under these lines, and I used to do my stretches there, and look up at the seed pods. A beautiful sight.

Last summer I decided to take them down. They had collected so much dust and I couldn’t possibly clean them. So I began, somewhat mournfully, taking down each seed pod, putting the pods in a tub, and hauling them down to the compost. When I mentioned my task to one of the textile artists down at the gallery, she foamed at the mouth. She’d love to have them. I still had five lines of seed pods left. So she came out with her boyfriend, loaded up ALL the rest of the seed pods, and hauled them back to Texas.

I still catch myself bringing in seed pods, but they stay for short periods here and there in the house, like a bouquet, and then I let them go. My mind has a full inventory of all the seed pods I’ve known, and I can go there for comfort, to see the receptacles of life.

Jacob’s cattle and Mayflower


by Nita Hill

The other day before the rains came, I stopped at a nursery that I had noticed but never visited. I left my husband in the car while I wandered around for a bit. Not really looking for anything in particular I was approached by the owner. He saw me looking in the dry shade section and he handed me Sarcococca, Sweet Box, and began reveling in the memory of the first time he had ever experienced the plant. As he spoke of the honey/vanilla fragrance, his vision softened and he was swept away.

Being an aromatherapist, I was well used to the experience of the close link between smell and memory. People used to think that babies knew their mothers from her voice, but it seems that it is her smell. We are animals after all. The limbic brain, our reptilian brain, is what makes us alike. It is what we all share as a species.

Then we discussed the imprint of the first time we saw a plant. After the first impression, every time thereafter the memory of the first time can slip in. My prototypical story of that was Aruncus, Goat’s Beard. I was descending the funicular in Quebec City and in the middle of a small lawn stood a huge Goat’s Beard. It was so beautiful and had such a presence I was taken back. It took a while to find out what it was and I planted a dwarf in one of my gardens, but I eventually gave it away.

I bought the Sarcococca and one other ground cover for dry shade. But they have a golden Sumac there that is PERFECT. Next year it will go into my xeric bed.

I sing the gardener’s song. There is always next year for…

Rose de Rescht

by Mimi Hedl

Back in the mid ’80s, before I kept records of what plants and seeds came to Strawdog, I received my first rose cutting, a Damask rose, rose de Rescht, from Penny Henderson, a member of the Flower and Herb Exchange, out of Decorah, Iowa, she from Davidsonville, Pennsylvania. Why do we remember these little details? I guess because learning how to strike a rose from a cutting seems like an initiation for a young gardener, and Penny raised horses, romantic, and seemed to know lots about gardening that I wanted to learn. I can only surmise what went on in my young mind. I do know I felt eager for fellow gardeners and quite alone in rural Missouri, so I welcomed her letters and gardening talk.

Using a stick, I primed an opening for the cutting at the head of the culinary garden, still only a skeleton of what that garden would become; the twenty raised beds constructed and filled with compost, but little planted at that time. On paper, when I designed the garden for the architect of my dreams to consult, it looked like a Gothic arch. At the head, where the rose hedge now grows, the arch, and the beds, pews in a church, the sides of the arch. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now I realize my Catholic upbringing figured into how I designed my world. I wanted order and hierarchy of a sort, the rose hedge the master, the mistress.

I would never do that now, plant a cutting so far from the house, from a source of water. I’d keep it in a pot close at hand, and when roots formed, I’d move it to its home when the elements all seemed propitious, like a Greek goddess casting a spell. Luck served me well and the rose took. In time I would take more cuttings and establish a hedge of roses marking the eastern perimeter of the culinary garden.

Mistakenly I planted garlic chives with the roses, their white flowers attractive with the ever-blooming damask rose. The combination seemed perfect until the seeds from this Allium fell every which way and I had a forest of garlic chives. Garlic chives need a wild place or a smaller garden where the gardener has time to cut back the seed heads before ripe seed claims more territory. Like all things, I learned this the hard way. So, on a late summer day, thirty years later, you would find me working on that eastern edge of the Culinary, in extremely dry conditions, digging garlic chives from the roses.

Assembling tools for this task required little more than pruners, shovel, fork, and rake. I already had on my gloves. With trusty wheel barrow, I headed out in the early morning, before the sun had taken hold of the sky, and began undoing what I had done years ago. A gardener’s lament.

Up at the Hong Kong Market in Columbia, they sell large bags of garlic chives, cut close to the ground and bundled with rubber bands. If you’ve never used this green in a stir fry, please try them. Two cups would not seem like too much for one person, they cook down considerably, have a mild, delicious flavor and add fiber and nutrients to your meal.

Because of all the organic material in the soil, beginning with the entire quarter acre covered 2 feet deep in straw when the idea for the “Park,” sprouted; and followed, over the years with more straw, and now grass clippings, the fork slid into the earth relatively easily instead of meeting an impossible resistance that clay, untempered, provides in dry times.

The roots to the garlic chives, a massive structure, held little soil so I only had to knock the clumps against the fork once or twice before tossing them into the wheel barrow. I trimmed back the rue that has become a tame companion to the roses and a lovely foil with its blue-green leaves, yellow flowers and swallowtail caterpillars that appear in late summer. After rue flowers, it becomes scraggly and needs a trim anyway. It felt good to dive under and around the roses, pulling up the chives, grasses and even tree seedlings that had sequestered themselves in the chaos of an unweeded patch.

Lemon balm grows on the west side of the rose hedge, and creates a nice barrier that the head mower enjoys when she pushes the mower against this fragrance. Even those of us who love and grow herbs can forget the restorative powers of fragrance. Many a foul mood can become a glad mood with the wafting of sweet smells. Take me to that delight!

By noon I had pushed the last wheel barrow load of weeds to the compost pile. It never fails to amaze me how many weeds cram themselves into a small space. Hot and sweaty, I retreated to the hydrant to cool off, to go in for lunch, a nap. Over the next few days I’d haul all the bagged grass from mowing out to Rose de Rescht, mulching the bare, weed-free earth, creating a frame for the culinary garden.

A woman named Nancy Lindsay, brought this rose back from Iran. She happened upon it in an old Persian garden in ancient Rescht, hence its name and the attribution of “very old.” Both lemon balm and rue would figure into the very old category too, so I like to think many other gardeners have combined these three plants in similar designs, the world over.

Planting, tending our gardens seem like peace offerings. If you’ve ever noticed a gardener working as you walk or pedal by, you’ll notice the prayerful positions they assume. Heads lowered, often on the knees, sometimes prostrate, but focused on the earth. A friend of mine who lived in Cochise’s Stronghold, called the activity, “feeding the earth.” I like that. I like thinking that our actions have a positive thrust on our often crazy world. That perhaps our activities counter some of the more careless actions and that gardening does represent a quietly subversive activity.

When I stand by the rose hedge and look into the Culinary garden, the beds neatly arranged with a wonderful variety of herbs and flowers, I do feel like a conductor, as we all must, when we see the dream become reality, in cooperation with the earth and her dictates. And this church of sorts fits my conception of life and the universe. I go to the garden for comfort and nourishment, as I try, not always successfully, to explain to my Christian neighbors.

Thoughts like these surfaced in the early morning, before the sun slows down our bodies, our minds and work becomes drudgery. What a fine way to begin my chore, my appointed task of redeeming the rose hedge.