Plants Go To War – A Book Review

Reblogged on friendwise.wordpress.com.

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

To quote author Judith Sumner in the preface to her new book, Plants Go to War: A Botanical Plants go to war coverHistory of World War II, “The war could not have been won without rubber, but the same might be said about wheat, cotton, lumber, quinine, and penicillin, all with botanical origins.” In her book, Sumner documents many of the plants that were critical to World War II efforts on all sides of the battlefield. Indeed, her research is exhaustive in that she covers not only the military uses of plants but also civilian uses as well by the major countries involved in the war.

As the war disrupted supplies of plants needed for medicine, food, and manufacturing, governments had to look for alternatives. Some were successful in growing tropical plants and food crops on their own soil; some began to look for chemical alternatives. A chemical synthesis of quinine…

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gangsters of the bird world

F998D4BD-7E52-44A6-8179-AD6B88962BADCrows have been yelling all week! When it was warm, when it rained, when it got cold. Folklore says crows can be good and bad omens. They are tricksters. They show up in groups or one at a time.

I could never get a picture of one. They were flying around everywhere and I could not capture one.

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I have raised orphan birds in my life, doves, starlings but never a crow. They have communities so if a baby crow loses its parents other crows adopt the orphan. Same for cardinals but cardinals don’t go around eating other birds’ babies or steal their eggs.

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If you find a dead crow it’s good luck but if you accidentally kill one it’s bad luck unless you bury it. And you have to wear black.

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Groups of birds have descriptions that seem to fit their perceived nature: a mewing of catbirds, a cauldron of hawks, peep of chickens, banditry of chickadees, charm of finches, but it’s a murder of crows.

See my point?

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Personally I think crows get a bad rap.

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weather

This once was considered a safe topic. Now it seems to spur arguments over global warming or climate crisis. I try not to get into hot water at all costs. There is too much unknown and I am always skeptical of proponents of a thing with mega millions, private jets and many mansions.

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I remember as a child sometime between late January – mid February hearing the term “false spring”. This was a balmy break in the chilling frozen of winter. Suddenly daffodils sprouted, songbirds sang all day and there was a delicious fragrance on a light, spring-like breeze.  It usually lasted only a few days. No more than a week. Then grey, cold days returned well into March.

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This week has been a gift. Mild temperatures around 60-70. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I have seen sparkling frost the entire winter so far. I know, it’s only January. But this has been a milder winter than I can remember in the coastal southeast.

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We’ve had rain but retention ponds that normally have water all year are dry. Marshes and bogs are dry. Peeper frogs are silent.

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There aren’t as many of these signs here as in Florida, or even South Carolina or Georgia. I have never seen an alligator here, but there is a small pond in the neighborhood where I live and others have said they have seen a gator in there. I am cautious walking my dogs around here. But I have not seen it.

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I spoke with a couple we met on one of our walkies this week. The husband was wearing shorts but also wore a light jacket. His wife had on a warm jacket. They both commented that their brains tell them it is winter, and where they moved from to come here that meant weather much colder than we are having. But they were not complaining.

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So again, I am learning to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I learned to slow down last year thanks to Lily and her injuries. This year it is the weather.

Our teachers are everywhere, if we are willing learners.

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beauty

Some things are universal in their beauty. Then there is beauty that is purely subjective. As Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1741, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.”

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Isn’t this true? Mysteries, complicated things, hard work, puzzles, riddles we tend to avoid. Well, some of us. Many are confident and up to great challenges. Some are spurred on by nobility and justice. Some stand and fight for truth. But we all have something we find as beauty.

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Some find beauty in terrible storms. Swirling dark clouds illuminated by jagged, blinding flashes of lightning. Crashing rumbles of pounding thunder. Chaotic whipping winds. The thrill of natural fear that exists larger than controllable events.

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And calm. Serene peace. Quiet so profound it has a presence. Pervasive and soothing.

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A season of sleep. Rest. Recollection of strength. Deepening roots. Restoration of life.

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the unknown

19DEEF51-CD17-48AF-83F0-78B6886C8543For the most part we are surrounded with that which is familiar— family, friends, hobbies, books, habits, work, neighborhoods. Not much surprises us. Our lives aren’t so much predictable as they are routine. Never boring because our perceptions continually change or adapt.

There are things that happened this year I could not have foreseen. Rescue dog Lily’s two knee surgeries and remarkable recoveries. Political ‘resistors’ in America who violently attacked innocent individuals. New neighbors next door who turned out to be a dear, kind couple. My son calling a few days before Thanksgiving to let me know he will visit me.

0537814D-DD4E-41AB-9168-347F036FC7B0Some pathways are clear. There are boundaries to keep us in a safe area. We know to follow this. Well, mostly. I can remember driving home after a day’s work with my free-spirited father who had salvaged a small business in receivership. In the companionable silence he’d suddenly brake the car, saying something like, “let’s see where this goes,” turning off the highway onto an obscure road, not really concerned whether we’d wind up lost. Dad was never lost. He had the strongest centrifugal force of anyone I knew.

Those adventures translated into other life decisions which I suppose taught me no matter what your decision, things can be worked for good.

0A3CE1C3-C245-4451-A364-CD4101A1C000So though at times the curve up ahead may appear at first to be a dead end, keep moving forward. There are many forces —mostly good— that travel with us.

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I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

 

gifts, 2

So the first round of gifts were store-bought. My favorite shortbread cookies, packaged chocolates. I included a lovely card with my name and address with the festive bags. Yet the second round of gifts were received much more readily than the first.

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These included homemade sweet banana breads with walnuts, and delicious cookies from a blogger family I follow who often post wonderful recipes. Here is a link for the ones I made which were raved about. I recommend you visit their blog. Always informative and interesting:

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Anyway, these treats went to a nearby fire station and my local post office. The best thing about these kinds of presents was the look of happy surprise when I handed them over.

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I still have one more delivery, a pecan pie and a festive box of Hershey’s treats to my other local fire station. I will take these on Christmas Eve because they are there working on Christmas Eve. Not with their families. Maybe the firefighters there that day are all unmarried people and volunteer to work over the holiday, but maybe not. Beside, it makes me happy.

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So whatever your plans, whomever you will have near and hold dear, whatever you celebrate I wish you love, joy, peace, and wonderful friendship.

 

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gifts

Talent. This word makes me think of someone who can sing, dance, play an instrument, play a sport or sail.

Gifted makes me think of someone who has intellectual acumen, or who can make things– knit, paint, draw, pottery, jewelry.

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Imagine creating this. A leaf. It has beauty, it feeds its plant, it gives shade, makes nests for animals, fuel. So our talents and gifts we are either born with or at least have the ability to learn.

All of us are capable of creating beauty in some way.  I took cookies to our local sheriff’s department. I have done this before and was asked for my name and address. This year when I said I had brought cookies no one said a thing. Just stared at me. The people who were in the lobby as well as the deputies. So I added, “I bring y’all cookies every year.” A person in the waiting area muttered, “isn’t that nice,” which prompted a deputy to say “Aww”, guardedly.

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Really?? Cookies. Maybe it was the festive bag and tissue paper. Maybe I look suspect. I think I look rather ordinary. Whatever, there was palpable tension as I stood there, until one of the brave deputies said, “You can hand it through here” indicating a glass shield with an opening the bag could fit through. I noticed the x-ray machine where persons put their briefcases and purses when they came to visit people in the jail and was glad I didn’t have to put it through that. But still. It’s sad to me that you can’t do anything nice for people without causing some degree of alarm.

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I brought a bag of treats to the nearby police station. There was an employee outside the building, talking with someone. As I caught her eye she said she worked in the building but did not say to give her the festive holiday bag, so I asked, “I can give this to you?” Not defensive, just clarifying. She nodded and I handed it off. Then went on to my volunteering stint at the city garden. I felt pretty good that I had done something nice for people, but sad that it had caused them some concern if not alarm.

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How should this be handled? I get why law enforcement might be concerned when someone brings a bag. I suppose it could be anything.

Maybe next year I will mail it.

 

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