So what, you might be asking, is "farrago"? Of Latin origin, once referring to a mix of grain, it is now a word defined as a "medley", "hodge-podge" or "motley assortment of things"...which is what this particular journal entry is. I have no distinct theme to articulate, but rather will be jumping about from hodge to podge and begging your forgiveness for such disruptive behavior.
A few weeks ago, we had some powerful winds up here on the East Bluff--no new story with that, but this time instead of damaging trees in the interior of the forest as is typical, two medium-sized Cedars were bested along the edge of the north prairie, not too far from where I fashioned my woodland picadero/manege. This assault on the Cedars is visible even while looking out the windows of the house and has altered the otherwise pleasing flow of the bush-line.
I should have taken a close-up photo of the inside of these trees for always curious Jean to see. It's no wonder the wind toppled them, they are rotted and hollowed inside, which I was quite surprised to see, since they otherwise had seemed like robust, healthy trees, without even a small, round intrusive entry made by Pileated Woodpeckers. But the wind knew about the inside of these trees. Is this not one of the roles the wind plays, rummaging and routing about pruning back that which is weak and diseased and ill-structured?
The horses and mules took advantage of these felled trees and consumed virtually all of the foliage and nibbled at the bark as well. I have seen them eat Cedar leaf occasionally, but by the looks of this tree, occasionally had turned into a opportunistic feast!
Thuja occindentalis, arbor vitae, White Cedar, gi'jikan'jug, is very abundant here at Ravenseyrie and lately I've been feeling an intuitive pull to making some tea from its leaves. I haven't yet, but now that I've written about this "intuitive pull", I think it would be folly to continue to not do something about it.
I've been feeling slightly "off" for several weeks now--no cold or flu, but the sense that if a bug wanted to, it could settle in for an unwanted visit. Remembering the story of how the kind and generous native inhabitants showed the French explorers how to heal their scurvy by drinking Cedar tea, rich in vitamin C, it is more and more seeming to me that I would much better benefit from drinking Cedar tea versus popping synthetic tablets of vitamin C. In a book written by Frances Densmore (an excellent documenter of the Ojibway culture) titled, How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts we are told of Thuja occidentalis, "An extract prepared from the leafy young twigs has been recommended as a febrifuge, expectorant, and anthelmintic." So White Cedar reduces fever, clears the throat and lungs, and expels worms. Wow, all that, eh?
I wonder what it says that the horses stripped the tree nearly bare? Does eating Cedar leaf have the same effect as drinking an infusion of its tea? The Whitetail Deer feed upon it quite heavily over the winter and it seems to keep them in fine form. I might have thought it was they who defoliated these fallen trees so quickly, but the copious amounts of horse dung surround the area is rather suggestive there was a Cedar-leaf-eating-party had by equines.
I like to use the essential oil of Cedar in a special cleaning solution mix I make, and I put several drops of it in my bottle of "Show Sheen" to mask its otherwise perversely perfumed fragrance. The "Show Sheen" is a rather absurd thing for someone like me who fancies herself a "natural" gal, it is entirely a synthetic chemical liquid that makes the horses manes and tails slippery and easier to untangle, as well as putting a shine on the hair coat for those who are showing horses and want that high-gloss "look".
But much as I dislike its quirky chemical make-up, the stuff helps me loosen the twirls and knots those pesky wind-witches weave into manes, and without it I simply could not pull out the seemingly ever-present assortment of burrs the horses collect in their manes and tails. Dried Greater Burdock plants are still standing pert with their seed capsules ready to hitch a ride on anything that even lightly brushes up against them. I used to use baby oil to remove these burrs and it worked well, but it also has the habit of attracting far too much dirt, making the manes somewhat gummy and even more difficult to keep untangled. I shouldn't be so anal-minded about these burrs and tangles and knots--after all this is part of allowing the herd to live a semi-wild existence--but I cannot seem to help myself...to not try to keep their tresses loose and lovely not only makes it appear that they are neglected animals, but it interferes with their comfort and free use of their manes, forelocks and especially their tails.
We had a melt last week, and lost much of the snow. Then what was left froze, making travel difficult for the herd, though the dogs and us humans can get around pretty good. It feels quite liberating to be able to go for a long walk without having to strap on snow shoes. I did get in some good skiing in January and early February before the melt. Look, a bit of my old ski trail yet remains:It's nice, too, to see the colors at the "top of the world" along our northwest bluff-line here at Ravenseyrie:Like the intuitive urging to begin drinking Cedar leaf tea, I've also of late been especially moved by these subtle colors of February, especially those distant blues on the horizon and feel I am being prompted to make some paintings using these colors. And after that, I've been feeling niggled to paint rocks and lichen:The lichen (and in the woods the mosses) seem so alive this time of the year! Hardy souls they are! Just a bit of a thaw and they seem to glow with potency, resilience and promise. It's snowy rather lightly right now, with much heavier amounts to come this evening and tomorrow...all will be buried again, and spring is yet a ways off for us here on the island, but that brief thaw has invigorated me, just as it has the moss and lichen, and I too feel very resilient and filled with promise.
Oh, gee! One more thing I had wanted to share in this journal entry was the results I received back from the University of California, Davis from the color tests they did on hair root samples from Altamiro, Interessado, Fada and Animado...but I'm out of time. I'll have to post again tomorrow or the next day.
Thanks to all who of you who have taken the time to read through this "motley assortment of things."