Thursday, 6 July 2017

If it works - or even if it doesn't - write it down!

Woops! That's poison ivy, isn't it .. oh shit. Oh shit shit shit shit.

That was me a couple of hours ago. That's not what this post was supposed to be about, I had something else planned entirely. So let's do the something else first, then I'll tell you about the poison ivy encounter.

It starts with strawberries, yesterday.

After weeks of rain, we've finally had a few nice days in a row. We'd been trying to get out to the strawberry pickin' place for ages, but what with rain and various social events we didn't make it til the very last day.

I love the strawberry picking. I love the murmur of the people around us, I love the way our strawberry guy lets big daisies and red clover come up between the plants, I love being down on my hands and knees on the straw between the rows with the sun beating down on my back and arms and I love that gentle little 'click' sound/feeling you get when you pull the berries off the plants. It's all good. It being the last day, it took some doing to fill our 4 big baskets. Not much left and thanks to the rain, many of them were now a-moldering on the ground. That's okay, these things happen, at least we didn't miss it.

We'd already had a busy morning. Me, catching up on the laundry - I noticed that morning that the laundry basket doesn't feel as heavy to carry up the stairs as it did at the beginning of laundry hanging season - and Paul was chopping wood. By the time we'd picked our strawberries we were hot, so we headed over to the swimming spot Paul found last summer. Paul swam, I waded around amongst the weedy bits talking to tadpoles and minnows. It was lovely, not too many bugs thanks to a breeze. When we got home I prepped some berries and he decided to go see a pal for a while. We had a pleasant evening and slept like rocks. All that day and as I fell asleep I was aware that I felt really strong, really healthy ..

but ..

when I woke up in the morning I couldn't breathe through my nose. My chest felt like there was a 4 yr old kid sitting on it. My brain wasn't entirely functional. My tongue felt 2 sizes too big and my throat like sandpaper. My ears were entirely stopped up. What??

Oh crap. I'd been down on my knees, up close and personal with moldy berries and moldy straw, of course I felt like crap. Only it took me a couple of hours to even formulate that thought because that's what allergies do to me, they make me stoopid.

Being sick makes all of us stupid .. well not stupid, but we're not at our best intellectually, are we. And that's why I want you to learn from my experience here. If I was healthy I could tell you what to use for exactly the symptoms I was having. But with no oxygen reaching my brain, I lost the capacity to think. I didn't have a clue what to do to help myself.

Fortunately I hadn't lost my sense of humour. If anything, I was goofy and giddy, so I laughed at my misery and laughed as I stood staring at my ever so extensive and quite impressive apothecary of tinctures and out into the back yard at all my plant allies without a clue what to do. It's not like this hasn't happened to me before, it happens once or twice a year at least. BUT when I do (eventually) figure my way out of the allergic fog I never write down what worked.

Please, folks, write down what works. Write down what doesn't work too, so you don't have to go through trial and error with a head full of cotton wool.

Luckily, my instincts kicked in. I craved alder and remembered (vaguely) how the tincture had once helped my plugged up ears. It happened to be sitting next to the cleavers tincture, which I remembered is a lymph tonic (when in doubt, throw in a lymph tonic). Okay, getting somewhere. Dry mouth, no saliva. I walked in the garden - ah, red clover, that encourages saliva flow. A little of this, a gargle of that and my ears unclogged, my tongue returned to (near) normal and I could (mostly) breathe. Phew.

Now here's the thing. The books and websites will tell you certain herbs are "good for allergies". But that depends on what kind of allergies you have, how they manifest for you. I once fell for the meme that "nettles are good for allergies" and made myself far, far worse with nettle tincture. Nettles are drying, so they're great for people with runny noses and tearing eyes. I have dry, 'stuck' allergy symptoms to begin with, nettles are not my friend in that instance. Funnily enough, it was the dreaded ragweed that cured me that time. I went for a walk, breathed in a snootfull of ragweed pollen, it got my sinuses and tears going and I was all better in a few hours.

See? That's why you have to write these things down, once you figure your own individual weirdnesses out, so you don't have to figure it all out every. damn. time. (she says to herself).

Being no good for nothin' or nobody today, standing over a steaming pot of berries and making jam just seemed far beyond my capabilities. Paul (oh, bless that man) suggested he take me for a drive. Of course we went over to the island. Whenever I feel particularly lousy (or particularly good) that's where I want to go. Actually at that point I was feeling particularly loony-tunes. Looking back I may actually have pointed a banana (gun-like) at Paul and said "take me to your leader" .. (oh god, did I really do that?).

We decided to head over to the pretty little DuBarry river that cuts across the island.

See? pretty.

There's a meadow across from this part of river that I just love to wander through. Yeah, it was buggy, but oh, the fragrance was worth it! The milkweed is in bloom; if you've ever smelled milkweed you know that all the finest resins of the East, grand as they are, don't really hold a candle to the two weeks or so that the fragrance of milkweed is in the air. Along with it, of course, the slightly milk-chocolate aroma of the brown-eyed susans, the sweet, sweet vanilla of the cleavers and the deep, damp mysterious smell of pines and spicy poplars all around the meadow .. oh yeah. That made my sinuses happy.

Milkweed, about to bloom. Sorry it's fuzzy, but
it gives you an idea.
I'm convinced that most of the time the best way to recover from something nasty - like an overload of mold - is to bombard the system with something good.

As I wandered I pulled a small brown-eyed susan up, roots and all. As a cousin of echinacea it is purported to have some of the same qualities, so I tasted the root - just put it to the tip of my tongue - to see if they have a similar taste signature. They do, sort of. There's a similar tingle there, which means it's diffusive (clearing) like its cousin. But with the yellow flower rather than purple, it wouldn't have the same toxins-in-the-blood clearing quality (ie bacterial infections), it would be more of a kidney or maybe gall bladder/liver plant, or so I mused. As I mused, I came to an area that was all cleavers.

The writer, a dot in the distance, musing
in the meadow.
I noticed that in this all cleaver patch there were virtually no biting flies. How nice! That led me to wondering, would cleavers make a good bug repellent? I just thought the reason that deer make their beds in cleaver patches is that they are so cool and pleasant. Another name for cleavers is bedstraw; we humans took the hint from deer and used to stuff our mattresses with it. I've never seen reference to it having insect repellent qualities, but it stands to reason that it would .. I'll have to fool around with that idea.

I was delighted to come across two rounded, flattened areas, one larger, one smaller, where I could clearly see that deer slept, and probably every night, too. Delighted, that is, until I realized I'd made a path through the long grasses to get there, they would see that and of course smell me, and I felt like I'd intruded into someone's bedroom. Tsk.

I turned to go, looking down amongst the cleavers to see what smaller plants might be growing in the dappled shade at their feet and .. woops! .. that's poison ivy, isn't it! .. oh shit! Oh shit shit shit shit. And there was no other way out, I had to go back through. It was 'only' all over ground, thankfully, not climbing up into the waist high cleavers. And I was wearing shoes and for once, jeans, so I was protected. I've never reacted to poison ivy in the past but I am not cocky enough to think I'll get away with it all my life, you know?


What's the message of poison ivy? Humans - Do not enter here. (Animals are unaffected by it, in fact deer consider it a delicacy.) I really had been intruding in someone's bedroom, and stomping all over their food, gee I feel bad about that. If I'd had my usual senses about me I would never have bumbled in there.

I think I'm okay. I washed my feet and ankles when I got home and made a quick trip down the trail (talk about bugs, holy crap!) and gathered a paper bag full of plantain, in case I need it later. It's been a few hours, but I'll be vigilant, these things can take time to show up, or so I hear.

There's nothing like a close call with poison ivy to take your mind off other miseries. Whatever I took for that mold overdose today worked (and if I can remember, I'll write it all down), but especially (I think) all the good things I breathed in did the trick.

What a day.

Post script:

I just laid down with Paul for a minute as he's about to have a siesta. I had my head on his chest, he put his arms around me and asked "how are you feeling?" (isn't that sweet?). I answered him brightly, "I'm feeling pretty perky, actually!" to which he chuckled in response, "Good. You were pretty hilarious this morning."

Ah, marriage. Nice to know I amused him. > blush <


  1. Good advice to write it down, but in our fog, we forget to write it down! Oh, poison ivy. I react strongly to poison ivy! And, yes, I think a good husband is worth supporting! Lovely photo header by the way!

    1. I didn't write it down this time either >blush<. You must be a redheaded Scot, right? It's funny how no one in our family reacts to it; we're Scots, but not redheads. A good husband is a *treasure*. And thanks, that's my garden sittin' spot where I can be surrounded by colour and bees. Kinda heavenly.

  2. I must have about 10 mullein plants growing that I wouldn't dare let my husband pull up. I have been trying mullein tea with some lemon balm to see if it can help with all the phlegm I constantly have at the back of my throat. Jury still out.

    1. Aren't mullein plants cute?

      Make sure you inhale lots of the steam every time you have a cup of tea so it gets into the sinuses. If it's a longstanding problem, it could take a while. If mullein loosens things up, it might seem to get worse before it gets better, too. Good luck!