Saturday, March 31, 2012

Celebrate Saturday

Those who have not found the heaven below,
will fail of it above.

~from the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 30, 2012

Folklife Friday: Mayapple

Disclaimer: Anything posted here is for education and entertainment. I am not a doctor, just someone who loves folklore and learning about how people coped before modern medicine. You are entirely on your own if you want to experiment.

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, is all those green umbrellas you see on the roadside, and they are abundant this year.  Common names are mandrake, ground lemon, hog apple, love apple, umbrella plant, and wild lemon.

Male plants have a single leaf.

Female plants have two leaves.

The blossom and fruit is produced where the leaves split.

The mature fruit is about the size of a small egg. I have found it tasteless, although some say it is lemon flavored, and some say they have made jelly from it.

The plants colonize, and sometimes, it looks like a green rug covering the woods.

Every part of the plant except the fruit is toxic. Folklore claims the dried roots were used as a purgative to remove worms in the intestines. In earlier days, Mayapple was used as an ingredient for preparing laxative and sold over the counter as a medicine known as "Carter's Little Liver Pills", which is now banned by the FDA. Mayapple is used today externally by some herbalists for removal of warts and skin cancer.

Mayapple is one of the first wildflowers I learned to recognize. When my mom would take us for walks in the woods, she would point it out to us. She told us how during the depression, she and her siblings would dig the long, skinny roots, dry them, and sell them to a druggist in town to earn a little cash.

Mayapple is being researched and used today by doctors to treat certain kinds of cancer.

If you have a hankering for some herb tea today, don't use Mayapple. Look for some sassafras instead!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Tyler

Today is John Tyler's 222 birthday.  He was never meant to be President, and wasn't a very popular one.

William Henry Harrison, who had killed a lot of native Americans in the Battle of Tippecanoe, ran for president on a 'let's all party' platform, and picked his old chum, Tyler, from Virginia as his running mate.  Tyler wasn't real interested in politics, but his name worked well in the slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too". 

Harrison was so excited about being president that he spoke for two hours in the cold March rain and wind during his inauguration.  He developed a cold, which went to his chest and turned into pneumonia.  Harrison died on April 4th, when he was still trying to fill his cabinet.

Tyler was enjoying his life in Virginia as an aristocrat, drinking fine wine, reading poetry, and making babies (he had eight at this time).  He was against almost everything.  After he became president, he vetoed so many bills, including those of his own party, that everyone wanted to impeach him.

His wife died soon after he took office, and Tyler married Julia Gardiner, who was five years younger than one of Tyler's daughters and produced seven more little Tylers.  Julia is credited with having the band play Hail to the Chief when Tyler walked into the room.

Tyler was called a 'laughing stock' by John Quincy, but he did manage to do some things.  He established the National Weather Bureau, and what would we do without that?  He settled the fuss about where the border was between Maine and Canada, and signed the bill to annex Texas.  He also served as an reminder to all of us that no one is perfect and that presidents have always been unpopular, not just during our lifetime.

When Harrison's term was finished, the weary Tyler returned to Virginia and quit politics for a while. He was elected to the Confederate Congress just before he died in 1862.

He may not have been the most loved or exciting, but Tyler served our country as the tenth president, so he deserves to be remembered on his birthday.  I just hope he's not expecting cake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Favorite Places

Yesterday, Hub and I went to Huntsville to visit our son and daughter-in-law.  After we saw the new plants in the backyard and played with the granddoggers, all of us went to Bennett Nurseries, just a few miles from their house.

Mr. Bennett has transformed his nursery into a park, more like a botanical garden than a place of business.

In addition to this eye candy, the Bennetts also provide  water, sodas, and Starbucks coffee to their customers.  For FREE.  When was the last time that happened to you?

This trumpet vine is on a beautiful arch that spans the walkway.

Decisions, decisions.


These are the plants that came home with me.  It is entirely possible that you will see them again.

This is where I want to work when I grow up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Red Birds

Thousand Red Birds by Phil Porter

We clutch our tiny bits of faith in tight fists shoved firmly in our pockets.
We clutch it suspiciously, so unwilling to let it go we don’t want to lose it.
We clutch it fearing that once it is spent,we will be without hope, cast adrift, out of luck.

Help us loosen our grip.
Help us to pull our hands out of our pockets.

Help us to uncurl our fingers stiffened over time.
to grow,to shimmer,to pulse,to explode into the air

like a thousand red birds.

Faith is the supreme effort of your life - throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God." - Oswald Chambers

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break

Spring Break is finally here!

The flowers appear on the earth;

 the time of singing has come,

 and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land; Song of Solomon 2:12

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Celebrate Saturday...Spring Fever

It's spring fever....

You don't quite know what it is you DO want,

but it just fairly makes your heart ache,

you want it so!”  ~Mark Twain

Take the day off. 
         Play like children. 
                 Feel the spring around you. 
                          Be grateful that spring has come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Folklife Friday: Mingus Mill

If you are traveling through the Smoky Mountain National Park from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina, you will see the sign to Mingus Mill on the right just before you leave the park.  Last weekend, we were privileged to spend some time there.


The mill was working, the huge grindstones powered by the little river outside and almost underneath the building, just as it has been doing for 126 years.  The cornmeal they produce is sold to visitors.

The Mingus mill was first built in the 1780s.  It was replaced by the current building in 1886.  It was owned by the Mingus family until it was acquired by the National Park in the 1930s.

The wooden floor was worn smooth and the building vibrated slightly with the turning of the grindstones.  The traditional water wheel is not there; it is powered by water flowing through vanes of a turbine.

My mama told us that during the depression, one hard winter her family existed on corn bread and molasses.  They had grown and harvested corn, shelled it by hand, and taken it to a mill to be ground.  Because they had no money, the mill would keep a percentage of the cornmeal as payment.  My Grandpa would work for people who couldn't pay him cash but gave him molasses for his wages.  It wasn't exactly a balanced diet, but it kept them going until times got better.

We never get tired of the Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is about six hours from where we live, and we have been fortunate to visit there many times.  It is consistently the most visited national park, according to the travel industry, with the Grand Canyon being second. 

Road trip, anyone?

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Forsythia is like a little bit of the sun, captured and kept against the gray landscape of late winter.

It is the first color here, and in many parts of the country, and is always greatly welcomed.

Forsythia and the red quince are the first flowering shrubs that I can remember.

 Possibly because they are so easy to move and propagate, these bushes were found at almost every home place.

Occasionally, when we are riding in the country, we see forsythia blooming at a place where the house and people are long gone, surviving without anyone to water or fertilize or love them.

Any home looks better framed by forsythia.

 As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.  Numbers 24:6