Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beagle Ridge Herb Farm fragant and nature minded

Ellen Reynolds talks to visitors at Beagle Ridge

     On her Facebook page for Beagle Ridge Ridge Herb Farm, owner Ellen Reynolds has some pretty looking lavender sashets on view, for the economical price of $4.95. This Virginia Master naturalist and herbal plant saleswoman had spent most of her life living "all over". When it came time to really find a place to settle down in, she and husband Greg decided on a wooded area about 10 miles from the city of Wytheville, in Matney Flats, where there are many birds in view. There is even a hiking trail for bird watchers and anyone wanting to get away from the busyness and noise of the city, to a place when one can experience peace and calm.
    She describes her decision to move to Beagle Ridge as serendipity ("a happy surprise") and welcomes visitors to her herb farm from Thursday to Sunday. Here she grows many wildflowers for sale, but especially lavender. In a study done by R. Reichow Braden and M. A. Halm, lavender was shown to ease the anxiety of preop patients in the hospital.  Both its flowers and oils  have been used in treating different pains, like toothaches and migraines, and assisting with insomnia and cancer issues. 
    Visiting lots of public schools to teach kids about nature Reynolds also feels is important. She even has a butterfly house she built, a place where Monarchs can live out most of their lives before they are let free to migrate south.
    To find out more or to see about purchasing lavender go to 

RAID-- Bad for Bugs AND People


      Husband Frank said he'd done this before as he'd seen the bugs swarming in the past (Really? You didn't tell moi); and recently he did the self same thing: he used RAID, and in the house (Ick).
    Nasty! RAID is a nasty bug spray, even if it is mostly used outside (by more informed people than this spouse). But he wanted to get rid of these winged bugs right away, "bugging" us as we sat in the living room, not two feet away and crawling around on the floor and wall just below the picture window. 
     I'd informed him that I'd seen bugs by the window and didn't immediately say don't use a toxic bug spray. So his immediate reaction was to get rid of them fast by generously spraying the area near us with RAID. I should have said "no" to bug spray right off the bat. Immediately after that our eyes and noses were affected, cringing from the smell and irritation of these harsh chemicals.
     At first I wasn't even sure they were termites. I thought they were harmless winged ants (which don't like to dine on the wood the house is made of).  I looked at several websites and found out termites have little black bodies which, unlike ants, have thick waists -- no segmentation. Flying ants have upper and lower wings, the lower ones shorter than the upper pair. Flying termites have uniform, elliptical shaped wings that are twice their body length, and when the RAID got them (hubby vacuumed up the mess afterward) you could see the little body laid out against the long, translucent wings.
     I had to inform him "you're spraying poison. What did people do before WWII? Why couldn't you have used boiling water in the house (then swept them out)?"
     I wondered what my body was being exposed to. RAID has a ton of nasty chemicals, like pyrethyroids, piperonyl butoxide, permethrin, and D-phenothrm (a mouthful).
    At a government toxicology site it pointed out permethrin, for one, is harmful if absorbed through the skin and if swallowed. It says to remove pets and plants away from the area to be sprayed and ventilate the area -- we opened the windows and ventilated the house for 3 days. Some recommend opening up the windows for a week!
    And he did this stupid thing for nothing. At the "gardens alive" website (an extension of NPR radio's "you bet your garden" show) it explains that you can get rid of termites without toxins. Just treat wood --- pine is their favorite -- with borate termiticide and put the wood in termite bait traps outside of the house. Our termites were trying to find a colony, as most East coast termites are subterranean and "want" to stay down in the ground. 
     Live and learn.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Don't Kill the Dandy Dandelion

   When my sons were rather young they would seek out these innocuous yellow flowers out on the lawn and gave them to me to put in a vase --- the humble dandelion. Then, as now, I thought they were rather pretty and couldn't understand why homeowners looked upon them with such disgust.
    But I find that dandelions are actually quite dandy. If you look in any "edibles" handbook you will see that quite to contrary of today's thinking, these wildflowers -- yes, they are in wildflower guidebooks, not weed books --- are quite attractive. And edible.
    Dandelions have vitamins A, and C in them. And being a "green," they are also good at "detoxing" the liver. In grammar school you may have been told the liver just stores excess energy and fat. It does more than that, actually; it processes and detoxes what comes into the body, from chemicals in our food and cosmetics to our doctor pills and common drugs over the counter like aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen). Dandelions help our overworked livers work better.
    Though the bigger leaves may taste a bit bitter, like many greens (mustard greens and collard greens), the early, smaller leaves don't taste bad. If you mix them into a big salad you can hardly taste them, anyway.
    At our wedding "rehearsal dinner," an outdoor affair, my soon-to-be spouse's good friend from high school brought along some dandelion wine. I think it had only been aged something like a week. It looked like muddy water and didn't taste any better. Kind of like muddy water but with a "kick" to it. His cousin Larry took some good gulps of it (and probably some other stuff too) and had a good hangover the next day. He looked rather pale at the wedding reception.
   Yeah, dandelions can make living interesting. They make good natural crowns for the hair too, or fluffy bracelets.
   So let them stay on the lawn for a week. They soon close up their flowers and go to seed and leave your property, till next spring. They don't hurt the lawn, so don't hurt them and poison the environment for birds and others who light on the grass.