Category Archives: 7 Acre Wood Musings

Pollinator Proclamation comments to county board of supervisors

My notes for addressing the Bath County Board of Supervisors Meeting – June 11, 2019 concerning the Pollinator Proclamation

Thank you, Chairman Byrd, for being attentive to this proposed Pollinator Proclamation.  (Addressing the board) I emailed him my letter concerning the opportunity on May 22, 2:36 pm. He responded at 4:42 pm that the Proclamation would be taken up at tonight’s meeting. And he responded on an iPad, no less. I’m grateful for the quick acknowledgement and swift action. Yet another reason I love living in Bath County. 

I’m speaking this evening for the pollinators. Although they live in your districts, they don’t vote… I confirmed that by checking with the county’s voter registrar Charles Garratt (who happened to be in attendance!). And although they contribute mightily to the economic viability of our county, they don’t pay taxes. So it’s difficult for the pollinators to access public government to have their concerns heard. 

They largely go unnoticed. Why? Because their numbers are declining. Need evidence? Take your vehicle’s windshield for example. Do you recall what your windshield looked like 20 years ago? 40 years ago? True, it’s not fun cleaning dead insects from your windshield, but the absence of insects on your windshield should concern you. With each trip in your vehicle you’re performing a simple qualitative survey and the results are not good. Your insect-free windshield illustrates an important point, insect populations are declining. 

And this includes insects that support pollination. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of pollinators to ensuring genetic diversity for world food production. Their loss would be an ecological Armageddon. 

Adopting a Pollinator Proclamation will, in my opinion, be the first step. Such a proclamation will increase awareness and provide momentum in our community. I think we can count on our garden clubs (our county being fortunate to have two garden clubs), birding groups, area master gardeners and master naturalists to step-up and continue to increase awareness with articles in the newspaper and public talks at the library. We can also seek advice from experts in the area, starting with the US Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program to name a few. 

Locally, we can do things to promote habitat for pollinators like mow less and decrease use of pesticides. 

As I said earlier, the pollinators don’t have a way to access county government, nor to write articles and give presentations. That duty falls to us. And it’s a duty we owe to future generations. 

All I am saying is ‘give bees a chance.’  

Good news! The proclamation was the first item on the agenda and it passed!

Chop Drop & Yank

Removing unwanted woody plants with the “chop-drop-yank” approach

by Joe Murray

(Note: This post was originally submitted as an article to the Warm Springs Garden Club newsletter – May 2019)

When Anne and I encounter a woody plant that doesn’t “fit” in our landscape, we employ our own unique “chop-drop-yank” approach to remove the botanical interloper. Our most common unwanted woody plants are multiflora rose, autumn olive, Japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, and assorted briars. We don’t fancy using herbicides (or any products ending in “-cide”) or tractors pulling up plants. We try to move gently on the land to have minimal impact on soil and its interconnections with the “living” landscape.

Figure 1. Our tools for removing woody plants. Back row, from left to right, Extractigator and Extractigator Junior. Front row, from left to right, Fiskars lopper, Corona hand pruners, and Fiskars shears.

Anne initiates the process with her shears and loppers, “chopping and dropping” the shoot systems of unwanted woody plants (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Anne chopping and dropping.

The chopping and dropping of woody plants’ shoot systems improves our efficiency by saving time – no need to drag brush to a cart for disposal on a burn pile! Additionally, the cut pieces cover the soil as a rough-and-ready mulch until its decomposition yields organic matter and returns nutrients to the soil. Anne whittles away at the shoot system, leaving approximately 18” of stem above ground which I use later when I follow behind – pulling up the root system of the unwanted woody vegetation with the aid of an extraction device. Using the age-old principle of leverage (Figures 3-5), I place the jaws of the Extractigator on the base of the woody stem, gradually pull back the handle, and watch with satisfaction as the plant’s root system rises out of the ground. I then grasp the upper portion of the stem (that Anne thoughtfully left) and gently tug the remainder of the plant from its terrestrial realm.

Tapping the root several times on the ground knocks off any soil before tossing the extracted root system to the forest floor. There, it starts the slow and gradual process of decomposition along with its chopped bits and pieces of stems. If the plant is too big for the Extractigator, we simply chop-and-drop for two or three consecutive years until the root system has depleted all of its stored energy and presents a dead tombstone-like stump that will eventually decompose.

Figure 6. Extracted plants left to right multiflora rose, japanese barberry, and autumn olive

An internet search reveals many different kinds of plant-pulling tools. Our preference, the Extractigator© employs the leverage produced by our weight (not our strength) leaning on the fulcrum to lift the plant’s roots out of the ground. We purchased two sizes: the “Classic” jaw size is capable of grasping stems up to 2 inches in diameter, while the “Junior” jaw size grasps stems with diameters up to 1.5 inches. The smaller junior model weighs approximately 3 pounds less, much appreciated when spending an afternoon hiking through the woods, popping-up plants. The company also makes other sizes for substantially larger stems, as well as a diminutive version for stems less than one-half inch. Sadly, at this time there are no distributors in Virginia. We ordered our Extractigators directly from the manufacturer in Canada and found the purchase and shipping to be straight forward.

We like our approach to managing unwanted woody plants. We feel this approach gives us the opportunity to interact more closely with all of nature’s interconnections in a particular place on our landscape. In addition to identifying and working on the unwanted plants, we’re noticing (and celebrating) the diversity of other plants, mosses, lichen, rocks and critters that often go unnoticed. We no longer fret about unwanted plants on our property because we know that within two or three years we will have worked our way through all our land. When we return to an area that we addressed several years back, we rejoice (Anne actually dances!) seeing the land hasn’t returned to its unruly, pre-managed state. Rather, these managed areas behave with a different intention. We’ve noticed the native vegetation flexing more muscle and holding its ground, making it even easier on our next visit to chop-drop-yank the few holdout unwanted woody plants that dared return.

If you would like to learn more, visit the company’s website www.extractigator.com
They can also be reach via email at info@extractigator.com or phone at 1-855-743-0353.

Our Second Year as a Botanical Sanctuary

The following was submitted to the Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation for inclusion in the Spring 2019 publication.

We’re writing this summary, comfortable in our little cottage, while the land around us is experiencing the polar vortex, griping much of the nation this January (2019). While we’re concerned about the health of our plants, we take comfort in knowing our work to improve soil health improves the resiliency of our sanctuary and its ability to respond to ever-increasing severe weather events associated with climate change. 

Upon seeing our United Plant Savers sign, visitors inquire about the purpose of a botanical sanctuary. We enjoy sharing information about the UpS Botanical Sanctuary Network and how we feel we’re contributing to the UpS mission. On several occasions we’ve had to clarify that the network initiative is a partnership between a non-profit organization and citizens volunteering their land and labor, not a state or federally funded program. These conversations often drift to a discussion of who should regulate the growing, harvesting, preparation and dispensing of herbal medicine. Until the plants can speak for themselves, we’re happy to be their spokespersons!  

Native grasses and wildflowers replace areas of turfgrass between the swales.

Taking advantage of the significant slope of our land, we installed a series of swales, each with a themed plant (medicinal herbs, berries, and nuts). In the nut swale, hazelnuts and chinquapins should be of sufficient size in a couple years to provide enough shade and protection for the incorporation of at-risk medicinal plants. Our task this year is to identify (and grow) plants associated with at-risk medicinal plants in nature. In addition to planting these “companion” plants, or “guild members,” in our forest, we will incorporate them into our swales so at-risk medicinals will feel right at home. Between our swales, we allow just enough space for walking paths and let the rest of the land to go wild with native grasses and wildflowers.

Last year, we built an electric deer fence (image) to protect approximately 2 acres of cultivated land. During the planning phase, we thought it prudent to extend the perimeter of the fenced-in area to include a portion of the forest to separate deer from future plantings of ginseng and goldenseal. After our faithful BCS tractor (“Tina”) blazed a path through the forest, we attached 2×4’s to metal fence posts at a 45 degree angle and affixed seven wires, spaced approximately 1’ apart. After about a month of “learning,” that involved regular repair and replacing of electrical lines, the deer “accepted” the proposition that this portion of the forest is “off limits.”  

In 2018, we gave nine presentations on sustainable land care practice, highlighting our botanical sanctuary. These presentations addressed diverse audiences ranging from local garden clubs, native plant societies, patrons at public libraries and even one at a the Biodynamic Farming conference in Portland, Oregon. Joe taught a day-long workshop on woody plants at the Allegheny Mountain Institute, a permaculturally-inspired educational non-profit organization training young adults in creative food growing systems and public outreach. Anne was a featured herbalist at our local farmers market.

We appreciate the support and information made available by UpS on their website, Facebook posts, and in the Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation. Reading about the great things happening at the UpS Botanical Sanctuary and the other sanctuaries in the network, renews our sense of purpose and realization that our sacred 7 acres is part of a much greater whole.

In 2019, we continue to practice the three principles we learned at the Findhorn Foundation,  an intentional community in Scotland: co-create with the intelligence of nature, practice inner-listening, and that our work is “love in action.” 

Saving Seeds: It Just Makes Sense

Saving seeds as an act of societal justice. Are you a seed saver? If so, then you are part of a larger global movement saving heirloom and open-pollinated seeds under threat of extinction (largely as a result of industrialized agriculture and multinational agrochemical corporations closing in on controlling the majority of seed supply companies). Aside from fighting the good fight, we really cherish seed collecting at 7 Acre Wood. It not only connects us back to our gardening ancestors, but also connects us to future generations.  

Saving seeds makes economic sense. Saving seeds saves money. Thanks to the exponential production of seeds produced in each flower head, you’ll have plenty of seeds to share with other members of the garden club. You’ll recognize this savings when you can cross off seeds from your list of things to purchase for the 2019 gardening season. 

Saving seeds makes environmental sense. Recent research indicates that during this time of the years, flowers in your garden activate important bits of information in their seeds to give their offspring a “jump start” in growing your garden next year. For example, if your flowers have been activating specific genes to help them deal with soil challenges, the resultant seeds will germinate next year already primed and ready to deal with those same challenges faced by their parents. By seed sharing, we’re growing flowers that are better suited to grow in Bath County as compared to seeds produced from flowers from some other region in North America. 

Saving seeds uses common sense. The process for saving seeds is straight forward; simply collect, clean (sorting seeds from fruit or residual flower parts), dry and store. Don’t be shy about trying; deep down inside we all have the innate knowledge to save seeds. That little voice inside of you will guide you through the process. We like to store our seeds in small paper lunch bags, placed inside of metal trash cans in an outbuilding so the seeds can experience cold temperatures. 

Saving seeds makes good health sense. Traditional vegetable plant varieties typically produce more nutrient dense food than hybrid commercial varieties that have been bred for high yields and to be responsive to pesticides and fertilizers. 

Supporting seed savers makes ethical sense. Supporting local and regional seed-saving groups strengthens the network of seed savers and preserves plant diversity for future generations. Ask Rhonda at the Warm Springs library how you can assist in her development of a seed-saving library. For more information on seed saving, contact the Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org). Better yet, join this important organization and “stick it” to those greedy multinational agrochemical companies!

Botanical Sanctuary Network – 2017 Summary

[In 2017, 7 Acre Wood Farm was recognized by the United Plant Savers as a Botanical Sanctuary. There are 90 Botanical Sanctuaries in North America (12 in Virginia). The following article will appear in the Spring 2018 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation.]

How a 7-acre botanical sanctuary can help heal a community’s people and soil

2017 was our first year as a member in the Botanical Sanctuary Network. The formal recognition from the United Plant Savers and seeing our name listed with the other like-minded conservationists across North America, we felt a difference in how we related to the land.

Our first impulse in 2017 was to better understand what plants were growing on our property. Equipped with over one dozen plant identification books, we set out to identify as many plants as possible and were delighted to realize in our first year as botanical explorers, we identified 231 plant species! We were especially pleased to learn that over 90% of the plants identified had some medicinal property recognized by Native Americans. We will continue this identification quest in 2018 and expand our search to include bryophytes, lichens, fungi and grasses.

Anne smelling black cohosh (July 8, 2017)

To improve habitat for medicinal plants, we invested time and energy to fence off areas in the forest and meadows that contained plants listed “at risk” on the UpS website, denying the deer browsing rights to ginseng, bloodroot, black cohosh, echinacea, and goldenseal. These protected areas will now allow us to expand our plantings of cultivated medicinal plants and encourage the spread of wild medicinal plants.

Marshmallow plants enjoying a swale-full of water. (August 7, 2017)

In keeping with permaculture design principles, we were able to turn what at first appeared to be a liability into a opportunity. Living at an elevation of 2,400 feet with a slope between 10-15% means two things; we live in a colder hardiness zone than our friends in town and, when standing outside, our feet are rarely level. We took advantage of relatively steep topography and created a series of swales to collect, move, and store rainwater. In 2017, we increased space dedicated to cultivated medicinal herbs by creating approximately 1,000 square feet of planting space in these new swales.

After entering a partnership with our local electric cooperative in which we assume responsibility for managing the electric utility right-of-way with vegetation that will not conflict with the electric wires, we continue to transform the formerly barren landscape into a vibrant habitat that supports pollinators and medicinal plants.

Last year we were both invited guest speakers at area garden clubs and local libraries and continue to accept invitations to speak on our medicinal herbs and efforts at creating pollinator habitat. In addition to sharing resources, herbal teas, tinctures, and salves, we also share seeds from our medicinal plants to family, friends, community members and participants at our workshops. This year, we are excited to accept an invitation to be instructors and share our knowledge and experience growing medicinal herbs at the Allegheny Mountain Institute, a permaculturally-inspired educational non-profit organization training young adults creative food growing systems and public outreach.

 

 

 

Resources mentioned in a recent presentation (February 13, 2018)

From Seed to Herbal Medicine: A Year’s Journey to the Heart of What Really Matters  (February 13, 2018, Warm Springs Library)

*** Information provided below is for educational purposes only. Consult with your medical provider and/or a licensed herbalist before embarking on a journey with herbs. Use of particular prescription drugs and/or the presence of specific medical contraindicate(s) the use of specific herbs.  Merrily A. Kuhn & David Winston’s Herbal Therapy & Supplements, A Scientific and Traditional Approach is my primary “go-to” when looking for contraindications with herbs.

Sample Herbal Medicine URLs introducing topics in our talk

  • Rosemary Gladstar is a favorite of ours, whether you’re with her in person or watching via YouTube and links to her website ( sagemountain.com ), you’re in for a treat! Laughter and learning rolled into one!

 

Rosemary Gladstar: Fire Cider Remedy

 

 

Deb Soule: an Avenabotanical video – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

 

 

Rosemary Gladstar’s Garden Wisdom: Yarrow

 

 

Susan Weed: Dandelion Medicine

 

Morag Gamble: Our Permaculture Life – Calendula

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w46LHwBz4_4

 

Morag Gamble: Make Calendula Flower Oil: for skin care, healing & eating

Morag Gamble: Make Simple Calendula Salve

 

Conservation/Preservation:

Seed Catalogs:

Where we get our tree seedlings:

Books that have influenced our thinking:
(listed in order to go along with our presentation)

How did we get here?

  • The Dynamic Laws of Healing. Catherine Ponder. 1972. DeVorss & Company
  • The Oversoul Seven Trilogy. Jane Roberts. 1973. Hay House, Inc.
  • The Search for the Girl with the Blue Eyes: A Venture Into Reincarnation. Jess Stearn. 1968.
  • Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet. Jess Stearn. 1967. Doubleday.
  • Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. Brian Weiss. 1988. Simon & Schuster.
  • No Ordinary Moments: A Peaceful Warrior’s Guide to Daily Life. Dan Millman. 1992. H.J. Kramer, Inc.
  • The Magic of Findhorn. Paul Hawken. 1976. Bantam Books.

 

  • Permaculture: A Spiritual Approach. Craig Gibsone and Jan Martin Bang.  2015. Findhorn Press. Findhorn, Scotland.
  • A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River. Aldo Leopold. 1949. Oxford University Press.
  • The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming. Masanobu Fukuoka. 1978. Rodale Press.
  • Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture. Ellen F. Davis. 2008. Cambridge University Press.
  • Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture.  Rudolf Steiner. 1993. Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association
  • Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution by Elisabet Sahtouris. 2000. iUniverse.
  • Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. James Lovelock. 1979. Oxford University Press.

 

Winter: Research

  • An Agricultural Testament.  Albert Howard. 1943. Oxford University Press.
  • Self-Reliance.  Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1841.
  • Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Toby Hemenway. 2nd Edition. 2009. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
  • Restoration Agriculture: Real-world Permaculture for Farmers. Mark Shepard. 2013. Acres U.S.A.

 

Spring:

  • My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver. Mark D. Hersey. 2011. The University of Georgia Press.

 

Summer: Caring

  • The Holistic Orchard: Trees, Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. Michael Phillips. 2011. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
  • Bringing Nature Home.  Douglas W. Tallamy. 2009. Timber Press.
  • Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality. Alan Watts. 1970. Pantheon Books.
  • Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration. Tao Orion. 2015. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation. Fred Pearce. 2016. Beacon Press. 

 Fall: Harvesting and Makin’ Medicine

 

 

Rethinking reason and the things I learned in college

  • Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.  By John Ralston Saul. 1992. The Free Press, Maxwell Macmillan International, New York, New York.
  • The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth. Stephen Harrod Buhner. 2002. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism. Stephen Harrod Buhner. 1996. Roberts Rinhart.
  • The Secret Teachings of PlantsThe Direct Perception of Nature. Stephen Harrod Buhner. 2004. Bear and Company, Rochester, Vermont.

 

Additional Websites:

aldoleopold.org

 

2018… A year for writing

The sun smiles upon a pollinator garden near the greenhouse.

Anne and I will be periodically posting to our blogs on a wide range of topics. You’ll be able to search through these postings by clicking on our names and then a specific category (Herbal Medicine, Reiki, Do it for the pollinators!, Esoteric Leanings,  etc.). In addition to keeping our family and friends up-to-date on our passions we hope to connect with like-minded individuals to share information and provide support.