Monday, July 25, 2016

My Favorite Alien

Alien species abound in the United States. No, they didn’t come from outer space. They came from other ecosystems, some by design and some by accident. For example, Russian thistle, along with East Asian kudzu and serecia lespedeza have invaded our botanic world and made serious pests of themselves. I despise all three, but at least one invader is welcome in our pasture ­– mullein, a native of Eurasia.

Herbalists value mullein for its demulcent, astringent, and emollient properties. I keep dried mullein leaves on hand for coughs and colds, but it has many other uses, including poultices for inflammation.

Mullein is a biennial. The first year it makes a low rosette of big fuzzy leaves. The second year it shoots up a stalk that terminates in many yellow flowers. Second year growth is easier to harvest, and just what we did yesterday. Actually Dennis did the work. I just sat in the car with its hazard lights flashing. In this photo he is heading for the last of the mullein plants, his left hand full of mullein stalks.

Although we could have harvested mullein in our pasture, instead we harvested along a roadside in Douglas County. I had spotted mullein on our way home from town the day before. It was growing on a bank with native pasture drainage. I’d been on the lookout for some that would not be contaminated by Round-Up and chemical fertilizers, and there they stood, several healthy plants in a row, all of them easily accessible from the roadside.

The job took only a few minutes.

Now it’s my turn to do the work cutting the individual leaves from the stalks and arranging them on towels to dry inside the house. I’d better get busy.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Old Dodge and Me

The 1950 Dodge sedan that I owned many years ago was in terrible shape. It was eight years old. The tires were bald and I could see the street below thanks to a hole in the driver’s side floorboard. It weighed a ton and was falling apart but I didn’t make enough money to trade up, so I scraped up enough to have its motor rebuilt. Eventually, sick of flat tires, I replaced those, but I didn’t even think to have the floorboard patched.

My body is like that old car – parts continually need to be repaired or replaced. I’ve been in the shop more times than I can count, having joints replaced or fused, or ligaments repaired. Like my old Dodge, my body has a waiting list for repairs: a Zenker’s diverticulum, cataracts in both of my eyes, left foot repair, and more. In addition there are things I could have fixed, but I regard them as necessary evils like the floorboard in my old Dodge.

Bless its heart, my old Dodge took a single mom and her toddler son pretty safely where they needed to go. Only once did it leave us in a pinch. We were driving back to Kansas City from my parents’ home in Bates City about eight in the evening on a winter's night. Half way home a tire went flat and I had to stop and get help. I bundled my forty-pound toddler son into my arms and set out walking toward house lights I could see half a mile away. Luckily there were three houses in a row because the first house I stopped at would not let me in to make a phone call and no lights were on in the second. The third house was hospitable and everything turned out just fine, but right after that I found the money for new tires.

I’m at the point of buying new tires for myself, meaning that having throat repair has moved to the top of my priority list. The Zenker’s is causing me to choke on food and cough more and more frequently, several times a day now, so surgery is on my calendar for September.

Now, my old Dodge experience taught me that age and decrepitude don't necessarily stop a body. I particularly remember driving it with my little boy by my side* one January day over ice- and snow-covered Kansas City streets. Traffic crept along, passing occasional cars spinning their wheels fruitlessly. As I drove my old heap at the end of a line of newer cars, we approached a rather steep hill. As we climbed the hill every one of the cars ahead of me slid backward and sideways and ended up off the road. I, driving my trusty old workhorse, heavier than any of the others, plowed by them right to the top and onward without missing a beat.

Who knows? Maybe I, too, have enough strength and stamina to make it up the hill, to get my worst frailties fixed up to go another mile or two.

A few years later I sold the Dodge to a neighbor lady for $35. Eventually it must have ended up as scrap, but still having some worth.

I, too, will have some worth when my life as a human being ends. My body, full of artificial joints, contains a considerable amount of titanium. I’ve instructed my family to retrieve the metal from my ashes to help pay for the cremation.

*This was in the nineteen-fifties. There were no seat belts, much less infant and toddler seats. Mothers put babies and young children beside them in the passenger seat. When we had to brake, we threw our right arms across the child's body for protection. That reaction was so habitual hat I did it even when driving alone and for years after.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rewards versus Grace

Hard work has its rewards. For example, last spring Dennis worked to plant potatoes – yellow, red, and a few blue. When the potato plants were host to some nasty potato bugs, he carefully looked over each plant and squished the bugs he found feasting on the plants’ leaves. Then, when the vines yellowed and died down, he dug the potato crop with the help of Bill and Zander.

The buckets of potatoes were his reward. He had earned them.

Sometimes, though, good things come to us through no effort of our own. For example, this summer a healthy stand of American bellflower appeared in a bed of vinca that lines our driveway. It is one of my favorite Kansas wildflowers, but I did absolutely nothing to make this happen. The flowers somehow made their way to this spot.

Dennis earned the potatoes. I did nothing to earn the flowers. They are a grace bestowed by Mother Nature.

May some unexpected grace come to each of us today.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, July 3, 2016

When the Kids Come Home

Everything changes. Dennis puts more leaves in the table. I stock up the refrigerator. We put on clean sheets, round up extra pillows, and put labels on the towel hooks, one for each person.

Then they arrive! Hugs, tears of joy, and the bringing in of luggage ensue. Our pace picks up, conversation replaces silence, we cook and eat together, and relish every precious moment until we drop with exhaustion.

When Carol, Bill, Pippi, and Zander came to spend a whole week with us, that’s just what happened. I took only a few photos because I wanted to concentrate on their being here.

I caught Carol as she prepared to prune the cardinal bush, decked out in Dennis’s work clothes.

I snapped Pippi and Zander lovin’ on their daddy.

Pippi danced with her grandpa.

I caught the bucket brigade bringing in the potato harvest.

The week flew by, but that’s what happens when the kids come home.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer