Earth Day

Earth day 2016

Happy Earth Day! Love your Mother!

 

For the curious, the plants shown, all NW natives, all traditional food and/or medicinal plants, clockwise from the orange one at top:

Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
Smooth yellow violet (Viola glabella)
Dwarf Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa)
The last white rose is not a native of NW but likely somewhere I traveled. I don’t travel far so possibly a nearby state. Anyone recognize it let me know.)

Animal Friends

Today, April 11, is National Pet Day, a day that sounds like an excuse for an indulgent society to celebrate one of its obsessions. But if you go to the ‘official’ website for the day, it gives a list of ways to ‘celebrate’ the day, and the list seems to reflect the delicate balance of our current cultural awareness toward animals, from indulgence, to fun, to humanitarian concern.

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On this National Pet Day I got to thinking about the pets in my life, especially in my adult life whom I had personal relationships with. Going through photo albums  (most of my animal friends lived in my pre-digital days) I found many sweet pictures to share. This is Leonard, a dog given to me for 'temporary' care and who stayed with me till his death on the road. He was my #1 guy when I began living in the woods alone.

On this National Pet Day I got to thinking about the animals I have lived with whom I had close relationships with. Leonard was a dog given to me for ‘temporary’ care in my late 20s who stayed until his untimely death on the road. He was my #1 guy when I began living in the woods.

Along with the booming industry of pet care products, from gourmet pet foods to ridiculous pet ‘outfits’, high-priced beds, pet supplements, ‘urban’ chicken houses, etc. etc., there is a growing awareness of the horrors and abuse of animals who are no more than a commodity to unscrupulous breeders or those in the illegal trade of exotic pets. Over the years cock fights have been outlawed, dog fights are illegal, the public is more aware, and angry about the fate of racing Greyhounds, there is more concern about the treatment of ‘retired’ racing horses, and pressure on circuses and marine shows to stop using wild animals as entertainment. There is a movement on both the local, state and national level to make it illegal for pet stores to sell pets from ‘puppy mills’. Many people wanting a animal companion adopt one from a shelter or rescue organization. Many states, Washington State being a leader, have animal abuse laws.

There is also a greater awareness of the benefits of living with an animal. The remarkable therapeutic value of companion animals with Autistic children, elder people with dementia, as well as the value of service dogs who bring independence and security to people with a variety of disabilities, is just a short list of the life-changing richness living with an animal brings to people.

Daisy. What can I say about her? A Jersey with a remarkable personality, I could write a blog just of stories about her

Dear Daisy, a Jersey with personality plus, I could write many stories about life with her!

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Pan

Societal attitudes toward animals have definitely shifted in the span of my life with animals, and while I think there is an unbalance on one end of the scale, with the personification of pets who don’t really care if they sleep in a purple velvet memory foam bed, I think over all attitudes have shifted for the greater good of both animals and people. Research into the intelligence and memories of animals has helped people understand that if animals have intelligence, they might also have feelings, perhaps not in the manner as we do, but of no less significance to their life experiences than our emotional life is to ours.

When Mike and I took a course in animal tracking years ago, we learned of cultures where animal and human lives interacted regularly and interspecies communication not limited to a few gifted people, but part of everyone’s every day lives. Where people were able to ‘read’ animals in the same manner animals can ‘read’ people (who has not had a pet who reacts or response to their human feelings of despondency or joy, or who knows when you are thinking of going for a walk or in the car?) The interspecies communications found in these cultures is not necessarily with ‘pets’, but with the animals living in the same geographic environment whose lives are interwoven with human lives. This interspecies communication was once more common but is lost for a wide variety of reasons in most cultures. I hope our current ‘obsession’ with pets is an indication of a deeper human desire to regain that lost connection. We have only to benefit from it.

Eliza & her brother Charlie were given to me as tiny kitties,

Eliza & her brother Charlie, given to me as tiny kitties, lived to a ripe old age.

If this day of honoring pets in any way can help bring into greater awareness the attitude that animals are the beings we share this little earth planet with, and to the degree we treat them with compassion is as much a reflection of our humanity as is the way we treat one another, then I think it is a day well celebrated.

Enjoy your animal friends today and every day!

Below are more pictures of my animal companions through the years. These were the ‘loves of my life’, in the manner anyone who has loved any animal companion knows. There were also ‘short timers’, animals who came for a time but who I found long-term homes for. (click on any picture to view larger)

Pan was a ‘yogi’ dog, as my brother once called him, who took care of all the 2-legged, 4-legged and feathered beings in his world. A friend to all, familiar and stranger, he was my best buddy on many camping trips and every day he spent with me.  He saw many other animals come and go, lost two of his own best friends when they died, my cats Charlie and Eliza, who left home when Pan arrived but were soon won back and slept with him and followed him everywhere. Also pictured above is Oki. Mike came into our lives with Oki, an elderly, deaf Border Collie/Australian Sheppard who had lived an adventurous life as a tree-planters companion. He was grumpy about getting old when we met him, but Pan guided him and cared for him with great patience. Pan was old himself when I brought Reggie the strong-willed, playful Corgi home, but he was patient and friendly during their few years together.  

Reggie, the playful philosopher and most strong-willed dog I've lived with, traveled many places with Mike and I and hated being left home even when we went to work! He was a working dog at heart and wanted his own job! He stunned everyone at his composed behavior when he was invited to participate in an animal communication class I took with Penelope Smith.

Reggie, the playful philosopher and most complex, strong-willed dog I’ve lived with, traveled many places with Mike and I and hated being left home even when we went to work! He was a working dog at heart and wanted his own job! He stunned everyone at his composed behavior when he was invited to participate in an animal communication class I took with Penelope Smith. His death from mis-diagnosed pancreatitis was wrenching on both Mike and I.

My life with chickens has been well documented in past posts (see below). Feathered friends are hard-working bug eaters, egg producers who provide endless hours of entertainment!

Tippy, an elderly dog who wandered into our yard from the neighbors, who didn't really want her, and stayed till her end.

Tippy was old when she wandered into our yard from neighbors where she’d been left by folks who didn’t want her. She stayed till her end, a mixed breed of happy, she was, we thought, our ‘last’ dog friend…..until Abby had other ideas.

And in the present......Sweet Abby, coming to live with us in her 'elder' years but getting a new lease on life as she hunts and runs 'free at last' in the woods! 

And in the present…Sweet Abby, coming to live with us in her ‘elder’ years, getting a new lease on life hunting and running ‘free at last’ in the woods, and being my self-appointed shadow! Our cultural shifts in attitudes allowed her to spent time with my mother living in care facilities and  accompany me to appointments at Swedish Cancer center.

Here are some resources about animals in therapy and communicating with animals.

Mayo Clinic “Pet Therapy”

PAWS For People Benefits of Pet Therapy

Penelope Smith Animal Talk

Mary Getten Animal Communicator

 

Here are a few of the many other posts about animals:

I aught to have my head examinedCoops and TransitionsAnimal LoveAnimal DancesHeart TugLast One StandingStuddly the Rooster

 

 

 

 

 

Morning in Paradise & Forget-me-nots

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Peach Tree

Wow! If you are living in western Washington this first day of April, Nature is ‘fooling’ us in the most pleasant way…with blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures, weather that makes one open the curtains and look forward to the day! I opened my curtains to see two Stellar Jays in the peach tree. Our lone Jay has found his mate for the year. Their bright blue feathers amongst the pink petals was a colorful portrait of spring love!

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Abby and I went for an early morning walk, the blue skies beckoning us out. This is the phase of spring for flowering bushes and trees and some of the humbler flowers, such as forget-me-nots and bleeding hearts, both the wild and domestic. The ‘humble’ flowers are the ones no one has hybridized into hundreds of varieties with rainbows of color, nor do they have festivals and shows to glorify them, but they are often favorites of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Living in a woodsy environment, I appreciate the humble ones, they tend to be hardy, less fussy, and reliable.

IMG_4685Come with me on my morning walk and let me tell you about the ‘blues’, the forget-me-nots that grow everywhere in our yard, a few sneaking into the woods and joining the wild bleeding hearts.

 

The flowering current bush in it's glory outside my bedroom window, about 8' tall!

The flowering currant bush in it’s glory outside my bedroom window, about 8′ tall!

Most forget-me-nots are blue but pale pink and white blooms are occasionally seen

Most forget-me-nots are blue but pale pink and white blooms are occasionally seen

Forget-me-nots are in the plant family Borage, genus Myosotis,  There seems to be disagreements as to their character traits. They are mentioned as being annual, biannual, and perennial (I always thought the annual ones different from the perennial ones). They re-seed easily the same year, new plants growing late summer and fall for the following spring. But the seeds, which can stay dormant for decades if necessary, also grow new plants in the spring. Some sources say their origin is New Zealand, others claim they hail from the mountains of Europe. One reference stated there was a native North American species but I could not confirm that. Seeds of many plants hitched rides early in European settlement of the New World, so confusion as to whether they were here already or caught an early boat is understandable.

IMG_4696Not all who study them agree on the number of species, 50 seems an average. Apparently it is difficult to tell many of the species apart. There is agreement that forget-me-nots like to grow in damp woodland areas. I find this true, when they grow in drier corners of our yard they get yellowish leaves and dry out. Their bloom season here begins in March and they bloom well into summer, the dainty little blue flowers blooming up the stock as it grows taller and gets “gangalier” I often pull some of them mid-summer, when there is more leaf and stem then flowers, letting them reseed with new ‘fresh’ plants. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids and though a few in a salad is ok, caution should be taken for internal consumption. 

Another spring bush adding vivid color to our morning walk is this quince

Another spring bush adding bright color to our morning walk is this flowering quince

Whether native or not, they quickly become ‘wild’ flowers, in a more polite, not so invasive way as other ‘invaders’, such as non-native buttercup. One article said they were ‘invasive and hard to control’, suggesting the use of a herbicide. Yikes! I appreciate that they return every year, sometimes in the same places, sometimes showing up in new corners of the yard or garden. Should they appear where they aren’t welcome, they are easily removed by pulling, coming out ‘clean’, leaving no root pieces or runners, (as compared to morning-glory which is very invasive!).

There are many delightful stories as to the origin of their name, some are in the Wikipedia listing, other stories, both true and fanciful, can be found on other web sites. They are the Alaska state flower, the one place they are ‘glorified’ with a festival! I appreciate not only their reliability, but their color, blue being under-represented in the flower world and a delightful addition to spring color. That’s what makes them unforgettable!

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our 'chicken coop' garden

our ‘chicken coop’ garden

Bleeding heart, both the wild and domestic, is also beginning to bloom. Last year our big plant was eaten by deer for the first time, so this year I divided it and put half in our new, tiny, “chicken-coop” garden, created in a now empty back-yard chicken coop. It is happy in it’s new home, and with other deer and mountain beaver treats, very protected! The plant remaining ‘outside’ has been sprayed with a commercial deterrent of garlic, eggs, etc. So far it is happy too!

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Wild bleeding heart, which I’ve written about before because it carpets the woods here for the next two months, is just beginning to bloom.

Early morning walks are not just for people and dogs enjoying the flora and blue skies, but for ants looking for a drink!

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Pear tree

Pear tree

Hope you enjoyed this walk-about and seeing some of what is blooming this first day of April here in our woodsy paradise!  Abby and I will be enjoying the day in the garden and sitting in the back yard under our ‘ancient’  little pear tree!

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Raised bed in the backyard, with blooming blue plumonaria, primroses, including a purple denticulata, and bleeding heart. Other perennials just beginning to grow include columbines and geums. Sweet woodruff will fill in the blanks!