Saturday, March 29, 2008

What I Learned Today

Today I spent all day in the drizzly cool mist mending and building fences. I have barbed wire, and I have t-posts, but I don't have one of those come-a-long things to get it nice and tight. From past experience, I know that slack barbed wire fencing is a real hazard to livestock because they think they can easily get through the strands and end up getting hurt AND loose. Our place is chock full of old loose barbed wire fences and I've only just begun to start the tremendous job of getting them right, or getting them in at all in some places. Well, when I was a child I remember seeing fences with sticks wound into them to make them tight, so that's what I've done. What I learned today is that you can't use just any old branch to do this. Certain trees make good sticks and certain ones don't. The good ones are cedar and hickory, and maybe oak and some others. The bad one I learned about today was buckeye. It was handy and I thought I'd try it, but it was a waste of time. It takes a lot of torque to twist a stick in a barbed-wire fence, and the buckeye just bent and broke. Fresh off the tree, a hickory or cedar stick will not break.So that's my survival tip of the day: if you don't have a gadget to make a tight fence, use a hickory stick about the thickness of an inch, and wind up the slack with that.

Basil Benefits

Basil has been one of my favorite herbs for some time now. Recently, while researching basil (Ocimum) for a magazine article I compiled the following interesting facts about this aromatic herb.

1. Basil has been found to attenuate the stress response to excess noise in rats. This ability to help the body respond to stress is probably due to the wide variety of antioxidants found in basil which inclde flavonoids, phenols and carotenoids.

2. Human hair as well as sheep hair (wool) can fertilize basil increasing its growth. Next time you get a hair cut, work a little of the hair into your soil. Hair is a protein and so it is high in nitrogen. I’m wondering if my horse’s hair will also be beneficial.

3. Basil protects against harmful effects of ionizing radiation. This may provide protection to healthy, non-cancerous cells during radiation treatment for cancer or protect your skin from the sun.

4. Basil can help normalize blood glucose levels and thus prevent insulin resistance for borderline diabetics. Eat basil with high protein mozzarella cheese and whole grain bread and that’s even better for diabetics.

5. The shelf life of high protein food such as tofu can be extended with basil. This study was done in India where refrigeration is not as common in rural areas.

6. Basil contains antioxidants that can protect against damage to DNA resulting in mutations. It also protects against oxidative stress from a variety of sources. This important benefit protects us from free radicals that arise from environmental sources as well as within our own body. In this way it acts as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb.

7. Basil can help the skin in wound healing and may prevent formation of scars. Go ahead, rub it on!

8. Basil is anti-inflammatory agent and can decrease heat and swelling of an injured area making it a potential treatment for arthritis.

9. Basil has potential applications to lower blood pressure.

10. Basil is both antibacterial and anti-parasitic having action against Staph aureus and Giardia. It may also be active against mosquitoes. 11. Basil can inhibit growth of breast cancer cells in the lab and thus may provide anticancer activity in the diet.

This summer I hope to have enough basil to distill, to enjoy plenty of pesto and to eat with mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes.

Cindy Jones;

Friday, March 28, 2008

Turn off the Lights tomorrow night!

On Saturday, March 29th at 8pm local time, millions of people will "turn off the lights" for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

This is a global event, location doesn't matter! Just DO IT!

Get involved and make a difference! It's easy, and you can make it fun!

To show your support sign up at:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dandelion ~ Spring Tonic

This time of year, there is much talk of spring tonics. Their purpose is to cleanse the body from the sludge of the heavy winter diet of meat, root vegetables, and very little fruit or greens. These days, with food shipped hundreds (or thousands!) of miles, many people's diets don't change that much seasonally, but still we behave differently based on the weather and season.
Winter holidays stuffed us with sweets. Very little sunlight, or desire to walk around outside, and even the viruses and bugs of the winter season have left us lethargic and sluggish.
Around here, the old-timers have always eaten their spring tonics as vegetables. That is not to say that tonics weren't prepared... it's just that whipping them into scrumptious dishes makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way.
When we put together "Wild Foods for Every Table" a couple of years ago (available here), the recipes for dandelion were the most prevalent of all the wild edible herb dishes submitted. After chickweed, they are one of the first to come up in the spring, so it would make sense that people long ago, hungry for some fresh greens, found many ways to prepare them and serve them to their families.
All parts of the dandelion are nutritious, helping to increase bile secretion and flush the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract. Dandelion is full of vitamins and minerals, helping to reduce water retention and swelling without depleting potassium. It can also help brighten and refresh the skin by getting those toxins moving through and out of the body.
So don't turn up your nose at the fabulously valuable dandelion! If it is growing nearby, give it a try. Snip the young leaves and add them to your salads, egg dishes, casseroles and pasta dishes. Pull the roots and roast them for a delicious beverage. As always, the price is right!

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Mint Syrup

We woke up to a few inches of snow on St. Patrick’s Day today. It should be just what those dormant plants need to get started though. We’ve just desodded a small area for our vegetable garden so as soon as this snow melts I will be planting my peas and lettuce. A few weeks ago I bought a small mint plant from my local nursery so that I could have something green in the house. Now it’s grown to a usable size. Last night we made a mint syrup by first mixing a simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water) and put about a tablespoon of fresh chopped mint leaves into the syrup after it boiled; leaving them there while it cooled. This made a very nice syrup to use in a drink. We mixed about one part syrup with 3 parts soda water and lots of ice. Its also good with a squirt of lemon juice. This is our St. Patricks Day drink this year; well at least for the morning because I am sure we will have some Irish whiskey come evening!

In honor of St. Patrick’s day here is one of my favorite blessings:

Deep peace of the running waves to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.
Old Irish Prayer

May Saints. Brighid, Brendan and Patrick guide you on your way.
Cindy Jones, Sagescript Institute

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Making a Vessel

Six days ago, someone posted my vessels page on I've been surprised by the staggering number of visits that have resulted. Inspired, this morning, I sat down and made some new vessels which I will post later on my own blog and webpage, but I was reminded of this "tutorial" that I blogged some time ago to explain the process and thought I'd share it here:

I am often asked if I "blow" glass. What I do is properly called "lampworking" and I don't actually blow the air into my hollow beads and vessels. I have always intended to make a page on my website to show how the vessels are made because the questions are asked so frequently.

Some time ago, I got someone to take a series of pictures over my shoulder as I made a vessel. This is a brief tutorial on how the basic vessel is made.

I make my vessels on the end of a "mandrel". The mandrel is a stainless steel rod. It is coated with a ceramic substance called bead release. This keeps the glass from sticking to the mandrel and when the bead is finished, the bead release dissolves in water and the bead "slips" off the mandrel.

First, a footprint is laid down on the mandrel for two discs. It looks as though there are two beads being made on the mandrel at the same time.

These discs will be the top and bottom of the vessel.

The disc at the end will be the bottom and extra glass is added to seal the hole

The discs are built up by adding glass until they are large enough to meet over the mandrel.

Sometimes, I gently coax them together with a tweezers or a "marver" which is a graphite paddle mounted on a wooden handle. The heat of the glass doesn't melt the graphite and it can be used to manipulate the glass as you will see later.

When the discs have been coaxed together, one more wrap of glass right around the middle makes sure the seal is complete.

Now there is air trapped inside the bubble of glass and I begin to heat the glass until the glass is molten and the air, now heated, expands. You can see it happening in the picture to the right.

This is a magical thing to me. When I first started making beads, my instructor told me I'd have to make at least 40 beads before I'd finally get a decent hollow. She was right!

So often, the seal isn't complete somewhere - either on the "belly" of the bead or something has happened to the bead release so that it isn't complete there. If the seal isn't complete, the bead will deflate into a sad glob of glass... sometimes with a big bubble somewhere, but not where it was intended.

When it works, which is most of the time now (!), I always get a big kick out of it.

Now, the finishing begins. Glass is often added to the bottom of the vessel to give it weight there so it will hang gracefully or just because it makes the design work.

The vessel is "marvered" to shape it and make the glass move together properly. Often, various types of decoration are added with tiny glass rods called stringer or by dipping the vessel in frit which is crushed glass, sometimes a reactive combination of deep colors.

I'm not showing it here, but the neck is added - like adding another bead right at the end and it is built up and shaped however I envision it.

Finally a handle or handles are added.

And voila! The finished vessel, with a cork and hung on a chain, ready to grace your neck and hold your favorite perfume, essential oil or other tiny treasure.

If you visit my vessels page, you can see the latest creations I have available.

Spring Comes to the Hill

I don't care what the calendar says, and the thermometer is a liar too. It's spring, darn it.Last night we started Daylight Savings Time, and according to my internal light requirements, that means that spring is here!
Yesterday was typical early spring in my part of the world. It followed several days of rain and cool temperatures. The soil is saturated, and there is mud everywhere. That's been going on for a while, actually, and hindered our progress during the move a couple of weeks ago.
The day started out misty and overcast, but by afternoon it was a gorgeous and balmy forty-something degrees. As it got to be later in the afternoon, the wind started kicking up, and I watched out the office window as the hill was enshrouded in rushing, wispy clouds. So I went out onto the back deck to put the wicker furniture in some defensive arrangement. Standing on the deck is my favorite place to watch a storm roll in. This one was fronted by magnificent swirls of pink, yellow, and pale green heavy clouds. They were followed by an enormous black cloud with an edge as sharp as a knife. This was no ordinary storm.

Looking down into the field, I saw my sister and her husband inspecting some plantings. From my vantage point, I could also see where the heavy clouds were putting down rain - and it was going to hit soon. Yelling for them to get inside, my voice was lost to the wind. So instead of saving them, I got to watch them get caught in the downpour and scamper (a word that has new meaning after the age of 50 when running in heavy mud) down the steep bank to the locked back door, and then run further to find an open door. Ah... the joys of a great view!
About that time, the furniture on the deck started flying around and landed in a tangled heap against the far railing. One chair broke loose and took the stairs. I'd prefer not to tell you what happened to my garbage. We'll just say this... it was heavy and it landed in mud. Oh, and I might as well add that I've noticed that my daughter has a well developed knack for being away from home at times like that. Lucky thing there's lots of soap around here.
We got well over an inch of rain in the next hour. Some areas got up to 2". The winds howled and the house groaned. I fell asleep to knocking, banging, clanking and gusts. This morning is bright and sunny. Eventually I'll turn on the news to see where there are trees and power lines down. Last night's news told of trees on houses, trucks being pushed around and power outages. I'll wander out and see if we lost any shingles or siding.But no matter what else happens, spring is here.
It has to be. I turned my clock ahead, so that means it's spring.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Promise of Spring

It isn't much, but at this time of the year, it doesn't take much! It's been raining and ugly. This has been a somewhat mild winter for us. No snow, but cold, raw, rain and ice...
Today, the sun finally came out and I happened to look down as I walked out the door of the shop. There were these lovely daffodil leaves coming out of the ground. Bulbs are the promise of spring.

I had some errands to do around the area and noticed the lawns and fields just starting to "green up". I love all the seasons, but spring has to be the best.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Land Locked!

The usual way out is impassable (see above) and the back way out is too high, too (see below). A general rule of thumb is if the water is over the center of the tire, it's too dangerous to cross. The back way is about up to the top of the wheels and would come in under the door. I've lost a dog to the bridge when the water was high on the front way out a couple years ago. She managed to swim out, but she was a large dog and was swept off the edge like a little piece of flotsam. Sure convinced me to never try crossing that bridge with the water high! Water has a tricky way of looking shallow or easy to cross when it is high like this. Since we moved here the locals have always called to warn us not to attempt to cross when they see the water looking like this, or they will let us know that it's okay to cross if they know it's moving slow or not too deep. I sure appreciate them sharing their knowlege like this!

Permaculture & Earth Activist Training in May

Wow! I got this notice from Starhawk last night & thought I'd spread the word. If you've ever considered taking Permaculture Training, this course looks fabulous. Look at the amazing line-up of teachers!

Earth Activist Training

Radical Sustainability and Regenerative Activism

So much more than a permaculture design certification course, Earth Activist Training (EAT) weaves the principles of permaculture, earth-based spirituality, and regenerative activism into a captivating curriculum that blends classroom lecture and experiential exercises with practical, hands-on learning opportunities.

May 3-17, 2008


Instructors: Starhawk, Margo Adair, Bill Aal, and Charles Williams
Manzanita Village, Warner Springs, Southern California, USA

In this course with a special focus on social permaculture, participants will learn ways to collaborate and build just and enduring alliances across social divides, as well as skills to build personal, interpersonal and community resilience to sustain themselves through hard times.This two-week residential intensive is a permaculture design certificate course.Curriculum includes: Water harvesting, graywater, bioremediation, natural building, cob, plant guilds, alternative energy, sustainable forestry, plant propagation, soil fertility, compost and mulch, consensus, facilitation, alliance building, alternative economics, direct action, strategy, issues of power, privilege and creative collaboration, Applied Meditation combining work with intention, intuition and mindfulness, energy shifting and ritual creation.

Sliding scale pricing:
$1700, if you have abundance in the form of money
$1500, if you are working and solvent
$1200, if you are scraping by
* work trade and scholarships available—

please visit our web site for additional courses, updates and to register 800.381.7940 (USA)
Hear the teleseminar with Starhawk and Bill Aal at:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A little iced rosemary, anyone?

Last week we had a mixed bag of weather. This time of year in south central PA is .... interesting, to say the least.
Up until this most recent round of frigid weather, we'd been enjoying some fairly temperate stuff. But then they dove into winter again.
Shortly after this picture was taken, we had a few days of thaw. Naturally, they coincided with the move here, with trucks all over the yard, sliding in the mud. The last couple of small loads had to be hand-carried like a bucket brigade.
Although it can be dangerous when things are coated with ice, it is one of the most beautiful displays that nature puts on. Here on the hill, all of the trees were covered, glittering in the sunlight. Nearby willows bent to the weight, and their long boughs shimmered brightly.
This little rosemary was so perfectly encased. It has made it through the winter so far (usually a 50/50 proposition in this zone), and the ice kept it from getting colder. It might just last through the final bit of winter.
Today I'll probably roast some chicken. I'll go snip a few sprigs of rosemary to lay beneath the chicken in the pan. It imparts such a delicious flavor to the meal, and it is so easy!
While I'm out there (slipping and sliding in the mud), maybe I'll see some chickweed too.
Thank goodness March has finally arrived. This has been a milder winter for us, but I'm ready for some steamed and buttered nettle leaves. I can't wait for the lambs quarters to grace the table. And most of all, I look forward to just being able to walk outside and feel the sun on my arms, get some seeds and plants in the ground, and get some growing going on!