Sunday, June 29, 2014

(Mis)Adventures in Container Gardening: Creative Growing & Herbal Disasters

My most recent trip to Ireland really inspired me to explore container gardens.  In previous years I'd been blessed with access to home gardens and/or a community garden plot, both planted in the ground.  However I had to move during the growing season that year and was really sad about my garden plot being far enough away to often not get there for many, many days at a time.   Also, not having that daily checking-in on the plants I was cultivating felt ungrounding, especially during housing transition.

It's said that the best fertilizer is the farmer's footsteps.  And weather you start plants from seeds or they come to you bigger, being able to witness their day to day growth is really special and a true education that can't be taught in a classroom or through books.  (Not to mention how much easier tending/weeding is when it can be done little by little, rather than during marathon gardening sessions that can feel overwhelming!)  Witnessing my friends' creativity while visiting them in Ireland inspired me to begin a container garden on my balcony upon my return, so that whenever I finally found my next home*space, I could bring my beloved plants with me.

I've documented some of the creative ideas, thriving plants, and botanical disasters for our viewing pleasures.  I will probably continue adding tips, lessons, and photos to this post, so feel free to check in on it again later and/or share comments below. 

Disclaimer:  I am not a "master" gardener.  I am a plant-lover that tends to wing it and am a perpetual optimist, encouraging others that it's not to late to transplant seedlings well into the summer, etc.  I believe in working with what you've got, DIY/DIT (do-it-yourself/do-it-together)-style and on the cheap.  I plant with care and say "good luck to you" to the plants, give them good soil, water, and sometimes brews of chamomile or seaweed, but rarely do I coddle them at all.   Check out some books in your local library/bookshop or online resources if you're interested in creating raised beds that are accessible for folks with physical limitations, vertical herb gardens, and more!

In Ireland:

Left: Sunflowers growing from a basket-container in an outdoor space converted into a pantry/growing space.  Note the gorgeous design of the glass in the door!  Love those.
Right: A set of drawers converted into a garden for Calendula and other plants.  Covered with plastic mesh to keep out lil critters.  Both photos from Kinvarra, Co.Galway.

Above: Container gardens at a hotel in Limerick, designed by my friend Val.  Check out her food blog Val's Kitchen.

Val's amazing container garden- Transforming a wee space into lots of food.

More Val's garden: using vertical space to grow lots of plants.  Love this paddle with notches that she got at the farmer's market - holding 4 pots of plants.

Above: Val's window gardens.

Above:  Vibrant azul/azure pots of greens, flowers, scallions, and more by the sea in Cork.

And back to the States:

Above:  So when I returned, I gathered some pots and started growing on the porch!  Looking for pots?  Check with local landscapers, the recycle center/dump, put a note up at work, let your friends know, etc.  A lot of people are happy to pass containers on!  Also, sometimes you can find them up for grabs on the side of the road, or at yard sales.  No need to go and spend lots of money buying new containers.  While in general I prefer natural materials, I prefer plastic containers over clay pots for plants, as they hold water better and require less watering.

Have you seen those mini-greenhouse?!  I was given one.  And then...

...this happen.  I went to the hardware store for a few minutes and when I returned, the seedlings I'd just planted were like this.  If your intuition doubts the plastic joints holding it all together, listen to it!

Then that same day, I found a big, low, sturdy table for free on the side of the road.  Planting the seedlings, Take 2!  Actually, when the mini-greenhouse collapsed all but two stayed in tact, so I really just apologized to the plants and moved them to their safer location.

Above: Trellising the peas.  Wait, what's growing in the peas?!  Oh, dang it!  Lesson learned:  if you put your containers under the bird feeder, things such as this will happen.  Especially if the primary visitors are grackles that only seem to want the black sunflower seed and send all other seeds down into said containers.  Overall, germination for the seeds I planted was great.  Germination for the seeds that the grackles planted was outstanding!

Above:  Whether planting in containers, or a garden in the ground, I like putting the plants that you're going to be harvesting closer to you/the kitchen and making them easier to get to.  ie. In a garden, there are certain crops you're only going to be harvesting once or a few times (Corn, Garlic, Pole Beans, Winter Squash), while there are others you'll be harvesting much more often (Chamomile, Cilantro, Greens).  Also, if having a pot of Basil on your porch will mean you'll harvest it more and enjoy your summer more, even though your garden is only 10" from your front door and you could plant Basil there, put a pot of Basil on your porch!  Enjoy the summer!

Above:  I thought that perhaps the popsicle-stick fortress I constructed for the Catnip plant would protect it from the neighborhood kitties.  I was wrong.  However, a friend successfully grew Catnip in their garden by surrounding it with prickly Milk Thistle plants, keeping both of her two cats out.  When I planted two Catnip plants in a home garden, I successfully communicated to the neighbor cat that one was for him.  The other was for me.  I pointed and explained over and over one day.  After that day, I would find "his" Catnip covered in his golden and white hairs and well-loved (read: crushed, and perpetually bouncing back).  Mine was left to grow and for me to harvest.  Thanks kitty.

Above:  I usually prefer growing edible/medicinal plants because they are so versatile and beautiful, but near to houses that may have lead paint or other badies, I prefer to grow flowers.  Just for pretty.  Or spiritual protection.  Or to use in foot baths.  Or for the butterflies and bees to enjoy.  I think it's also good medicine for workaholic, efficiency-oriented people to welcome some just-for-the-beauty-of-it-in-the-present-moment into our lives.

Above:  I love that in my village there are guerrilla gardening faeries that tuck plants along common ground.

In the kitchen: I like (re-)sprouting food to have fresh food in winter and just to be thrifty.  When I chop up scallions (aka green onions), instead of composting the octopus-y roots, I either put them in water or in a pot of soil.  They don't grow back as strong, but if you're just looking for some chive-y flavor, here you go:

Also, I was given one of these shapely glass containers to "force" bulbs in late winter/early spring.  While it feels pushy to "force" plants long before any bulbs have pushed up through the thawing earth outside, it is quite amazing to witness the growth of the green sprout, watch the development of the roots, and then have the total luxury of fragrant blossoms.  (I was so busy relishing the paperwhite blossoms that I forgot to photograph them!)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day, Dandelions, and Fabulousness! Dandelioness Herbals Spring Update

Happy May Day!!!  I can't wait til the festivities!!! After May 1 March for Health & Dignity (info here) at the VT Statehouse at noon, and then at Sovversiva Open Space for an open house, BBQ, and showing of the new film about the life and community organizing work of United Farm Worker Union co-founder Cesar Chavez!!! More info here. 

Hooray for workers rights!  Universal health care!  Anti-biased policing policies!  And all the cross-pollinating happening between individuals and organizations on May Day and everyday, across communities and across borders!  May we all channel the powerful energy of spring into fabulous projects, good medicine, and gorgeous art!

In this Update
-Report Backs
-Dandelioness Herbals Remedies: Green Tech, Fabulous To Go, Activist Self-Care Kit, & 
  Spring Tonic
-Recent/Spring Dandelioness Herbals Blog Posts: Penquins, Self-Care, Creating 
  Herbal/Emotional Support at Marches and Demonstrations
-Upcoming Teaching /Events: Decolonizing Herbalism, Empowering Herbalists (aka 
  Intro the Herbalism for Social Justice), Herbalists Without Borders,  and more!

I was so happy to part of the Migrant Justice/Vermont contingent at the Not One More! Stop the Deportations march and rally in Boston, MA on April 17th, protesting the Obama administration's deportation of over 2 million of our community members and loved ones.  19 community members – both undocumented and documented -participated in a civil disobedience and were arrested, while throngs of supports marched for hours.  Those locked up at the detention center also showed their support through the bars/windows.  There are videos of this event posted here, and photos posted here

I was also really glad to attend the annual Reproductive Justice conference in early April.  I attended fabulous workshops: The Revolution Starts with Me!: Recipes, Remedies, Rituals, & Resources for Activist Self Care with Adaku Utah and Nicole Clark (check out their websites, SouLar Bliss  and Nicole Clark Consulting), The Politics of Adoption: Race, Identity, and Our Families' Lives about transracial and transnational adoption (check out Land of Gazillion Adoptees), and a workshop on supporting kids and caregivers, co-facilitated by a co-author of the book: Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities.

...also at this conference Wake Robin Botanicals and Dandelioness Herbals unveiled their latest three fabulous collaborations, which are now available at…

-Activist Self-Care Kit: Supporting Change Makers for the Long Haul Dandelioness Herbals, Wake Robin Botanicals, and Mandala Botanicals have teamed up to offer the following three herbals: Speak Truth! Throat Spray, Sacred Basil Glycerite, & Solidarity Salve

-Green Tech: Herbal Support Kit for Students, Activists/Organizers, & Writers
Many of us feel the demands of long hours using technologies that can be draining or wearing on our bodies, both physically and energetically. These remedies support us to not only function, but to thrive while we meet demands and deadlines feeling focused and collected: 
Sharp Thoughts Herbal Tea, Stay Ready! nourishing elixir, Ache Relief Salve, and Calendula Violet Eye Serum. 

-Fabulousness To Go: Helping our real fabulous nature shine through with Brilliant Lip Shimmer, Fancy Glitter Crème, Fabulous Transformation Flower Essence, Fabulousness In A Bottle.  This basket contains all kinds of flower-mermaid-unicorn-rainbow-hippocamp-and-kitten magic.

-Also NEW: Spring Tonic - a blend of fresh roots, leaf, and sap that provides nourishing support during the transition from winter to spring. 

-Arnica drops and Lavender Spray: Creating Herbal/Emotional Support at Marches and Demonstrations

-Hope! Because Sometimes We Need Some Help: another Wake Robin Botanicals and Dandelioness Herbals collaboration penguins, poetry, & dance routines

-The Sweet Truth About Bitters
-The Dandelions Are Here!!  the whole plant is medicinal - flower, leaf, root, and sap!
-St. Patrick's Solidarity   Mexico/Ireland solidarity!
-In Case of (emotional) Emergency: self-care form to fill out to fill out when you’re feeling grounded, supported, calm, inspired, etc.  to read when you’re not.



-Sandra Lory of Mandala Botanicals and I will be teaching 'Decolonizing Herbalism, Empowering Herbalists' (aka Intro the Herbalism for Social Justice) at the following event, as well as presenting in the evening about Herbalists Without Borders projects:

Sat May 24th 2014, Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT 
Inspiring day of herbal classes, walks, talks, & connections, followed by an evening including fresh dinner fare, music, cocktails, dancing, & festivities! We are enthused to offer classes from wonderful teachers: 7 Song, Mary Bove, Guido Mase, Larken Bunce, Betzy Bancroft, Jeff Carpenter, Melanie Carpenter, Sandra Lory, Brendan Kelly, Megan Godfrey, Leyla Bringas, Mary Niles, and many more to be announced! One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism's community herbal clinics.  More info to come here.  Facebook event page here.

-The Plainfield Farmer’s Market will be starting up in a few weeks, so you can visit the Dandelioness Herbals booth to taste remedies, purchase products, and chat.

-Interested in growing medicinal herbs for community health projects?  Members of Herbalists Without Borders are coordinating the growing of medicinal plants to distribute via community health projects near and far.  Interested in growing herbs for teas, salves, etc?  Please be in touch.

-I’m excited about hosting herbal medicine making days for community empowerment during the growing season, when the plants are most vital.  Learn to harvest in a good way, learn/share medicine-making skills, create remedies for community health projects, and create a kit to take back to our homes/communities.   All experience levels welcome.  If you have questions or ideas for venues, please be in touch.

Take care,
dandelionessherbals (at)  yahoo  (dot)  com

Please visit the Dandelioness Herbals Facebook page for info about upcoming events, photos of medicinal herbs, blog posts, links to good projects/resources, and more!

Til next time...

Images from the top:  
Migrant Justice represents! * Activist Self-Care Kit: Supporting Change Makers for the Long Haul

Participants of the civil disobedience at the Not One More Deportation! Boston Rally * As we march by the detention center, dandelion stays rooted beside us, embodying persistence and resistance, sending forth its seeds across borders and prison walls.

They send their love and support through the glass and prison bars.  To our comrades, brothers, fathers, cousins, husbands, grandsons, friends: you are not forgotten! * Green Tech: Herbal Support Kit for Students, Activists/Organizers, & Writers

Basket full of dandelion blossoms

Celebrating after the rally!  We Did It Before, We'll Do It Again! Power to the People! *  Dandelion roots  * Fabulousness To Go: Helping our real fabulous nature shine through 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Arnica drops and Lavender Spray: Creating Herbal/Emotional Support at Marches and Demonstrations

Yesterday I participated in the Not One More Deportation march and rally, where Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante, DREAMers MOMS USA, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice!, and other grassroots organizations shut down ICE (immigration) and 19 protesters who participated in civil disobedience were arrested.  My photos are posted here.  More here.  More information here and with links to the press here.  Here's a bit of what the day was like:

More videos here and here.

This event was really inspiring for me.  Children, babies, adults, and elders joined together for hours outside the Suffolk County detention center in Boston in the forceful wind to stand in solidarity with organizations and families all over the US and beyond.  President Obama has deported over 2 million people during his presidency, and he continues to deport 1,100 people every single day.  These unjust policies and practices are separating families and communities.  Millions of people who make this nation function are living in the shadows, forced to live in fear.  Children are afraid that their dad won't be there when they come home from school because he may have been pulled over on his way home from work in a routine traffic stop that leads to him being detained. Partners are afraid that their families will be split apart if one is detained and deported.  Victims, witnesses, and family members are afraid to call the police in domestic violence situations and other emergencies for fear of being arrested.

I knew about this protest many weeks before, but didn't know that allies were welcome alongside undocumented activists until just days before.  My first thought: food!  The second: herbal first aid kit!

With little time between work shifts, I pulled out my street medic kit to take stock.  I wish I had time to make a patch that said "Remedios" (remedies in Spanish) with a green leaf.  But alas, I ended up bringing my pack with a red cross and 'Street Medic' sign on it.  I contacted an event organizer, to be sure that it was okay with them if I brought some first aid supplies and herbal remedies, and to see if there was going to be a planned street medic presence that I should connect with.  There wasn't, but I received consent to bring my kit and offer remedies to folks, to I started gathering the bits and pieces for my kit.  I was a bit nervous that folks would see the street medic sign and red cross and think I was an EMT or had other such medical training (which I don't, I'm a community herbalist with some street medic training - see Mountainsong Expedition's Village Medic Training: First Aid and Herbalism for your Community classes).  It felt important, though, to bring along some remedies for people's emotional health.

Rallies can be intense.  Just having a large group of people together for any reason can create a lot of energy that can be overwhelming.  A large group coming together specifically to speak out and take action against injustices can bring up a lot of different emotions.  Gathering in front of a detention center can be triggering for many, even for those without loved ones who have been or who currently are locked up.  Hearing the personal stories of the daily wearing stress of the ever-constant threat of deportation many families face can be painful.  Listening to tales of deportations tearing families apart is heartbreaking. 

I wanted to bring remedies that would help create emotional support for those participating in the day's events - whether they were participating in the civil disobedience, participating in the march, or they were showing support from the sidelines.  I packed up some basic first aid supplies - bandaids, gauze bandage, a cool pack, gloves (to protect myself/others in case there were open wounds or blood or other body substances present-very important to remember!), sunscreen, benadryl and ibuprofen.  (Sometimes people get all sheepish when telling me that they took some Advil or antibiotics.  I love herbs, but I'm not anti mainstream medicine.  I'm into both/and, not either/or.)

I brought some Ginger chews to settle the stomach if someone is feeling nauseous or car-sick.  I also included pouches of Yarrow leaf and flower (to chew and apply to open wound to stop bleeding), Plantain leaf (Plantago, not the banana-like fruit - to chew up and apply to skin to draw out splinters, stingers, even poison!), Goldenseal root (cultivated - not wildcrafted, as this plant is at risk - I have rarely used this, but it's helpful if someone has intense diarrhea) and Slippery Elm bark (to add to water to soothe a irritation in the throat or digestive tract).  I brought a few capsules of Activated Charcoal for food poisoning or chemical exposure.   Chamomile tea bags made the cut as it's such a fabulous herb - anti-spasmodic for muscle or menstrual cramps, calming to the nervous system, soothing to the digestive system, and when it's in a tea bag it can easily be moistened to apply to irritated eyes or irritated/inflamed skin.

I brought remedies I make such as:  Global Citizen herbal first aid salve, Speak Truth! Throat Spray dedicated to whistleblowers and truth-tellers,  Crampease blend for menstrual cramps, Calm the Rage to cool hot emotions, Elderberry Ginger Elixir for immune support, and Heart Elixir for emotional support.  (Many of these remedies are available at my Dandelioness Herbals etsy shop)

The tinctures, elixirs, and throat spray I brought were all alcohol-based and for internal use.  They're convenient for travel and demonstration-situations as they are ready to take, not requiring hot water (as opposed to tea) or other such supplies/preparation, but not everyone may feel comfortable taking them.  They may be on medications that may interact negatively with herbs, they may not want any alcohol, or they may not want to ingest something given to them from a stranger.  So, I wanted to create some external remedies to bring as well.

I made a relaxing, grounding spray with distilled water, homemade Rose and Lavender flower water (hydrosol, instructions here), Lavender and Chamomile essential oils, and homemade Corn and Yarrow flower essences.  I wanted a mist that could be sprayed around or on people who needed to shift the energy of the event a bit, to create a bit of calm if need be.  I love that Rose, Lavender, and Chamomile are all flowers that are familiar to many peoples and cultures.  I added the Corn flower essence to help stay grounded, especially in an urban environment, and the Yarrow flower essences to help create an energetic shield/clear boundaries.  I felt particularly good about using the Chamomile (Manzanilla) and Corn (Maiz) as I knew a lot of the people and organizations attending the rally are from Latin American countries/cultures where these are common plants that are not only used as food and remedies, but also have spiritual significance.

 Chamomile and Lavender harvest     

Someone asked me to take a photo of her and her friend with a sign, in front of the detention center.  She gave me her camera to take the photo and told me the reason she wanted it was because her husband had been detained in this very facility.  He was deported and now she is alone raising their four children.  I asked if she wanted some relaxing spray and she said yes.  A small gesture, but hopefully a comforting one.  I also showed the kids the spray and they wanted me to mist it on them and they liked it.  (Just make sure to tell folks to close their eyes before misting!)

With children in mind, I wanted to bring something to keep the long drive interesting and that would be fun if the kids needed a bit of play-time at the rally.  Legos would be a nightmare, my board games were too big.  So I made some aromatherapy bubbles by adding a few drops of pure Sweet Orange essential oil and Yarrow flower essence to the bubble container, and put a rainbow sticker on it for fun.  They were a pretty big hit.  (Just try to guide young kids from inadvertently blowing bubble-soap into their siblings eyes when blowing really hard.)  I brought an extra bottle of bubbles in case I wanted to send it home with a kid (or grownup!) who was having a hard time and needed some cheering up.  The kids I went with also brought some little matchbox cars which they shared with other kids there.  It was very sweet.

Which reminds me - snacks and water!!!  When I was caring for the kids on the sidelines at the beginning of the rally, I noticed a little girl in a stroller that looked upset.  She started to cry.  Her mom was near, but caring for her little brother and so my 3 and 5 year old friends and I helped cheer her up.  We stood near her in a line to shield her from the wind, in case she was crying because she was cold.  A passing protester gave us a bag of chips (it was unopened, so I felt okay sharing it with the kids, otherwise I would've checked in with the parents) and the kids all opened their mouths to be fed!  I wasn't sure if they wanted to keep their fingers warm in their coat pockets on this wicked windy day, or if they were feeling like baby birds.  I was happy to feed the bird-baby-protesters.  My friend then shared her gorp (good old raisin and peanuts - with m&m's) with them.  Then the 5 year old started driving his little car on top of the head of the little girl in the stroller.  She had stopped crying and they where having a good time.

After that, I found someone to watch the kids so I could get closer to the civil disobedience and document it.  After I captured the scene with some photos, my friend who was participating in the action motioned to me for water.  Of course!  They're out in the elements, singing and chanting and shouting, surrounded by armed law enforcement officers.  And if they're taken into custody, who knows if they'll have any access to food or water.  They definitely needed some water.  Luckily I had in my pack a sports bottle that folks could squeeze water into their mouth with, without spreading germies.  It got passed around.  Then my friend shared the rest of her gorp.  Note to self:  always bring more water and snacks - for kids, protesters, folks who may get low blood sugar, anyone really!  (I did bring plenty of food and fluids for myself, knowing that I cannot be a calm, supporting presence for others if I'm hungry and ungrounded.  Next time I'll bring more easy-to-share snacks.)

After those participating in the civil disobedience were arrested, we marched to the back side of the detention center to let those detained out of view of the demonstration know that we were there, and that they are not forgotten.  We stood on a bridge beside traffic and held signs, sang, and chanted.  Community members locked up on the inside gathered at the windows and held up signs.  We also held signs to the road behind us so that those passing by knew why we were there.  We received many waves, honks, and smiles from drivers and passengers.  As we left the bridge, I realized my throat was sore from hours of singing and chanting.  We had raised our voices strong and loud.  I pulled out my Speak Truth! Throat Spray and the soothing herb and honey blend was just what my raspy throat needed.  I brought the remedy to those with bullhorns (as well as others), imagining that their throats may have been even more sore than mine.  Many accepted and appreciated the remedy.

Someone needed a bandaid.  Someone else needed some herbal first aid salve for skin irritation.  No major medical situations.  Still, bringing that herbal first aid kit and checking in with folks that looked stressed or cold or thirsty, helped contribute to a culture of self-care and community-care.

And as we march by the detention center, Dandelion stays rooted 
beside us, embodying persistence and resistance, sending forth its 
seeds across borders and prison walls.

When I got home that night, like many others, I called both the women's and men's jail to call for the release of our friends who'd been arrested for participating in the civil disobedience.  I was glad to hear, just before I crawled into bed exhausted from the day, that they had all just been released and in were in good spirits.  The next morning I heard from a friend who the arresting officers had put in too-tight zip tie police cuffs.  

Aye!  Why hadn't I thought of that?!  Whether folks resisted arrest or not, this is a common occurrence.  I wish I had left my Arnica drops with someone who was greeting the activists upon their release from jail!  I made the drops by infusing the fresh flowers from my garden in brandy and then homeopathically diluting it, to be used both internally and externally.  Be sure not to take Arnica tea/tincture internally at full strength!  Just one drop straight or in water is plenty.  Or you can buy homeopathic Arnica at a Coop or natural food store - usually in little blue tubes.  Get 5 Arnica tablets into the cap and, without touching them, place them under your tongue to dissolve.  Wait a few minutes before drinking water or eating.  Arnica drops can also be massaged into bruises, strained muscles or ligaments, and injured/inflamed hands or feet (just not on open wounds).  Arnica is also available as cream, gel, or salve/ointment.  I wanted to give my friend fresh St.Johnswort oil in case the too-tight zip ties had caused any damage to the nerves when they cut off circulation.  St. Johnswort is great for nerve damage (sciatica, post-surgery), and would also help with inflammation.  It can be used both externally, and internally in homeopathic form under its botanical name, Hypericum perforatum.  Calming/grounding/protective spray and Heart Elixir would be great emotional after-care.  I hadn't thought before of making an herbal first aid kit/care package to be there when people were released to help heal the physical and emotional trauma that is common during arrest and while locked up.  I love the idea and look forward to putting such a kit together for next time.

Note: Don't forget that cacao/chocolate and coffee are medicinal!  When you have long rides home after big events, make sure the driver has energy.  Having some form of caffeine can help fuel the trip home so everyone arrives back safely.  Luckily I happened to have some fair-trade chocolate this time and will be sure to bring some next time, too!

What would you pack in your herbal first aid kit?  Your just-released-from-jail after-care kit?  Please share suggestions in the comments below or by emailing dandelionessherbals (at)  yahoo (dot)  com

Also see:

-(Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?! 
-Love & Migration: Migration is Beautiful & Natural. So is Solidarity.
-Heart Elixir: to open, heal, and protect the heart   
-In Case of (emotional) Emergency: self-care form to fill out
-National Day Laborer Organizing Network's music videos on their Arts & Culture page 

(more info added to blog post on 4/24/14)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hope! Because Sometimes We Need Some Help: another Wake Robin Botanicals and Dandelioness Herbals collaboration

"Wake Robin Botanicals & Dandelioness Herbals have been working hard to collect some videos of inspiration & laughter. It took many grueling hours to vet all the videos that came our way! :) May this help with some giggles, hope & inspiration when you may be feeling overwhelmed or sad. Enjoy!"

This is in *no way* pressure to feel happy when you're down in the dumps.  Sometimes we just want to be sad, grumpy, depressed, frustrated, irritable, etc, and these are all a part of the full range of human emotions.  However these blog posts are for the times when we're feeling a bit stagnant and wanna shift our mood, or when we just wanna watch cute kitty/penguin videos and add a bit of "YES!!"-ness in our day
! Feel free to post more suggestions below in the comments.  Enjoy!

For more Wake Robin Botanicals & Dandelioness Herbals herbal collaborations click here.

Penguin Sympathy Solidarity

Instructions For A Bad Day by Shane Koyczan

I also feel inspired when I see dancing videos (especially people dancing together, in flashmobs and such)!

Six-year-old B-Girl Terra 

More by this crew above here.  There are more instructional dancing videos of the One Billion Rising flashmob on my previous blog post here.

For more critter videos on the Wake Robin Botanicals' "Hope! Because sometimes we need some help" post, click here.

Furze/Gorse on the West Coast of Ireland.  Furze/Gorse is "good for what ails you" and it's also said that "Kissing's out of fashion when the furze is out of bloom."  (Note: Furze is *always* in bloom)  I love this plant's hopefull, vibrant, golden radiance, especially for gloomy, rainy days or anytime I'm feeling under the weather.  More info here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Solidarity

In grade school, I dyed my bangs green with food coloring on St. Patrick's Day.  That same green the Chicago River is dyed on that same day.  This day didn't have great significance to me.  I'd never been to Ireland, though I'd wanted to go since I was quite small. 

This year, though, St. Patrick's Day has a special meaning.  Not only because I've now been to Ireland and have heartstrings-attachment that isn't just a faraway 'someday...' wish to visit this ancestral homeland.  Today my belly is filled with corned beef and cabbage (well, a bit of a mix of this traditional Irish food and the proper New England boiled dinner I was raised with...), and I'm dreaming of the day that I'll celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Mexico.

What's Mexico have to do with St. Patrick's Day?!  Well...

Only a week after giving a Travel Talk on Ireland at Sovversiva Open Space, sharing stories and images of medicinal plants and wild foods (like seaweed!), urban gardens, the Famine/Starvation, and Sheela Na Gig from my various trips to the island, my comrades were in the Vermont statehouse, testifying and confronting injustice.  Grassroots community organizations have fought for an anti-biased policing policy by the VT State Police.  Though many communities are targeted and racially profiled, the group I'm most connected with is Migrant Justice, a grassroots organization of migrant farm workers in VT, and their allies. (The majority of migrant farm workers living in Vermont are originally from Mexico, with smaller numbers hailing from Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries.)  Despite the anti-biased policing policy, 
law enforcement officers continue to racially profile people of color - and continue to call Border Patrol when they stop people that they assume are undocumentated

I've often heard people claim that their family came to the US "the right way," whether that was in this lifetime or many generations ago, and that other immigrants should "get in line."  (For more on this myth: here and here and here and the image here)  At a hearing addressing discrimination and bias a VT Representative asked a Latino speaker if he was a US citizen, after he *didn't* ask this of a previous white speaker from the same organization.  Another VT Representative claimed that he was part of the Irish community and basically said that they are all documented.  

Well, I'm not going to delve deep into Irish history, but I would like to recommend the film The Wind the Shakes the Barley to understand a bit about the British occupation of Ireland and the people's resistance.  I'd also like to recommend the book Famine Diary: Journey to a New World by James J. Mangan/Gerald Keegan for a personal account about the very intentional starvation of the Irish people by the British government/landlords, who stockpiled food and sent ships full of food to England while the people starved or were forced to flee the island.  The Irish that crossed the Atlantic and survived the journey, found more discrimination.  The NINA (No Irish Need Apply) sign below is just one example: 

Multiple times when I've been in Ireland, I've noticed a strong affinity and sense of solidarity with the people of Palestine.  (See image below in a Dublin pub, of the Irish and Palestinian flag hung side by side.)  

I didn't know until recently about the history of solidarity between the people of Ireland and Mexico as well...

La canción con subtítulos en español aca.

Mexican music by St. Patrick's Battalion Pipes & Drums 
"Banda de Gaitas del Batallon de San Patricio"

When I've been in Ireland and spoken with people about Migrant Justice, I've been told by people there that they have sons or cousins or other loved ones that are in the US without documentation.  Though they may be less targeted because Irish people tend to blend in with the racist idea of what a US American looks like and who "belongs" here (read: white), still people without documentation are forced to live with the constant stress of being deported and being unable to visit loved ones back home for fear of not being able to re-enter the US.  More about the 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US here in "America's New Irish Immigrants."

While mainstream "honoring" of St. Patrick's Day often looks like wearing loads of green and getting drunk, I'm reflecting on solidarity across oceans and human-made borders.  I'm grateful for all those who have resisted colonization and questioned racist ideas of who the enemy and scapegoat is.  To honor my ancestors and their struggles, learning more about how they were received and later the privileges they were given and we still are given, as well as what we lost, I'm standing in solidarity for racial and immigrant justice within what is now known as the US and beyond.  As descendants of those who survived -  whether it was crossing the ocean, a desert, mountains, or being from this land since the beginning (and I'm not talking about 1492 or 1776!) - we owe it to each other to end the cycle of dehumanization and work for the rights of all peoples.