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Forest Charm ~ Nature Photography

“Notice how present a flower is, how surrendered to life.”

~Eckhart Tolle

My favorite way to find grounding and balance is to take to nature; to draw from its infinite well of universal energy. This provincial park in Central Vancouver Island is a treasure trove of inspiration and rejuvenation.

The pastoral property that surrounds the park is beautiful in the morning light.

Wild roses flouring along the trails.

Golden cattails bloom.

A secret lake.

Honeysuckle hidden among the horsetails and ferns.

A little stream speckled by the sunlight.

Returning to one of my favorite views of the park.

The smell of wild roses filled the fresh morning air. Their perfume is addictive. It was encouraging to see many busy bees working.

“We have forgotten what rocks, plants, and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be – to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.” 

~Eckhart Tolle

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photography by Jane Grueber

See my photo gallery here

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Front-Yard Urban Garden ~ May Update

Now that May is half over and all our garden beds have been filled with vegetables, fruit and herbs, it is time to pause and take stock of what is actually growing and to reflect on why we are growing our own and sharing it with others.

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Why a Front Yard Garden?

This is our front yard. We decided to trade our weed-filled front lawn for six 4′ by 8′ raised garden beds filled with organic soil and home-made compost.

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This is our experiment. We want to know how much food we can grow and whether this set up can provide enough for our family of five for a 22 week growing period and beyond.

My hope is that we grow enough produce for our family AND to share with our neighbours as well as those who face household food insecurity in our community.

Read more about our front yard urban garden project here.

What is Household Food Insecurity? 

Not enough nutritious food on the table even though paychecks are coming in? Yes, this does exist in Canada. It is worse in some parts, such as the Northern Territories where two-thirds of children have very limited access to nutritious foods.

On Vancouver Island, where we live, research shows that 25 per cent of families experience some form of household food insecurity and have difficulty putting nutritious meals on the table as their money runs out long before their next paycheck.

Malnutrition in children and adults leads to poor health and mental health outcomes. Developmental difficulties as well as chronic conditions are directly linked to household food insecurity and increased health care costs.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

Nutritious foods sold in ‘Farm Stores’ and Farmers’ Markets are expensive and out of reach for many working families and individuals attempting to manage chronic conditions through better nutrition.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

These challenges are real. They are also opportunities. Growing our own as a way to gain independence and create greater food security in our community is indeed a revolutionary act.  Thankfully, there are many people around the world engaged in such subversive grassroots action. Our family is on a mission to Grow, Share and Thrive.

This is our first year. Our total investment in this front yard urban garden was $1600 CND. This is two months worth of groceries for us.  I know that this seems like a large sum (we saved and used many creative shortcuts). But this is a one time investment. Next year, our own compost and saved seeds will decrease the cost significantly. I see this as an investment that will pay off in the long run and benefit many.

My hope is to help others set up similar operations in their front yards; to provide them with free seeds, free seedlings, free compost (or help them create their own compost), to help them put together garden beds the most cost-effective way possible as well as an easy drip watering system that saves time and money.

I am heartened that people are interested in what we are doing. This year, we were able to give our neighbours tomato and strawberry seedlings as well as unused seeds to help them start their own urban gardens. Naturally, the biggest barrier to growing one’s own is time.

We specifically set up our urban operation to be non-time consuming. Once seeds and plants are in place, it’s water tap on, water tap off. Done.

Want to start your own urban garden? Read more about how to get started here.

Get even more inspiration for growing your own here.

What’s Growing in the Garden?

Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, radishes, peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, squashes of all sorts, watermelon, strawberries, sorrel, garlic, cabbage as well as 32 different herbs and perennials.

Here are some pepper blossoms. They are so delicate. We started the seeds for these from an organic green pepper we purchased at a local store (one way to get seeds). We started the seeds in used organic coffee grounds on our kitchen counter.

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They start out so little.

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Here is some dwarf kale.

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Cauliflower which loved the cooler, damp weather that we had until yesterday when the sun found us.

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This is a Gala Apple Tree. We got the seed from an store bought apple and started it in used organic coffee grounds on our counter. It’s two feet tall now. We have three of these started and have high hopes for adding to our fruit forest in our backyard.

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These wonderful Cherry Belle Radishes are almost ready to be harvested.

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Our first strawberry. Small but sweet and juicy.

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My favorite flowers of all time with the fuzziest leaves ever are back. Borage has reseeded itself and is now growing wildly in all garden beds. The start-shaped flowers are wonderful for bees as they refill with nectar every 2 minutes. Another great nectar producer is Comfrey which refills every 45 minutes.

The fuzzy leaves of this plant are very edible and when I’m out of spinach, I substitute borage leaves when making palak paneer.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photography by Jane Grueber

 

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Grow with the Flow ~ Nature Photography

“When you possess great treasures within you and you try to tell others of them, seldom you are believed.” ~ Paulo Coelho 

I have been enjoying the escalation of colors in our backyard. It is mother earth imploring us, in her playful way, to give her our feet, our eyes, our noses and to take a picture.

These Gentlemen’s Buttons are a favorite of butterflies and bees which have been frequenting our yard a lot more now that these darlings appeared.

Even the ants can’t seem to get enough.

It is possible to understand the power of attraction.

Such great treasures.

            ~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photography by Jane Grueber

See my photo gallery here

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Healing Herbs ~ Hyssop for the Garden

“Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.”

Ancient Native Proverb

 

As I write about the different herbs in our garden, my hope is that I commit some of this information to memory or, at least, create a reference for beginning herb enthusiasts.

The information written here is collated from a number of sources (listed below) and is intended for reference and information purposes only. Consult a physician before taking or using herbs to treat any condition. 

Hyssop

This herb has a long and interesting history as well as a reputation for being a ‘protector’. Found in the Mediterranean, it has been cultivated in gardens for over 600 years. It’s antibiotic properties and astringent properties may have been the reason why lepers were bathed in hyssop and why the Persians used distilled hyssop water as a body lotion to give a fine color to their skin. Hippocrates recommended hyssop for chest complaints. The Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues. It’s popularity as a powerful essential oil, medicinal plant and aromatic herb and is even mentioned in the Bible.

Native Americans found many uses for this plant. They included it in their medicine bundles and burned it as incense for protection. Its uplifting fragrance was also used to treat depression.

Hyssop, or hyssopus officinalis, is a herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus, and it’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Its name comes from the Hebrew word adobe or ezob, which literally means “holy herb.”

Anise Hyssop (different from hyssopus officinalis) is a blessing to any gardener. The foliage of Anise Hyssop actually smells like licorice with complex notes of lemon, pine, sage, black pepper and camphor. There is no floral scent. Leaves and flowers are edible and may be baked in breads or added to salads. It is a feast for the senses and well deserving of its place in the wild garden.  Deer avoid eating this plant but rabbits love it. Hummingbirds also find it attractive and goldfinches eat its seeds.

The findings of this chemical breakdown revealed that hyssop possesses valuable high-antioxidant properties for culinary and medicinal use, especially because it serves as an antioxidant.

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Today, hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems, including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, and loss of appetite. It’s also used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.

The Hyssop Plant and Components

Hyssop is a woody shrub with dark-green leaves, and the flowers are fragrant and colorful; in the summer months, the plant produces blue, pink and white flowers.

The stalks are cut twice a year, at the end of spring and beginning of fall. Once they are cut, they’re dried, which takes approximately six days. When it dry, the leaves and flowers are chopped finely, and the mixture can be stored for up to 18 months. The plant can also be used to make an essential oil, extract and capsule.

Hyssop is part of the mint family, so it has a minty taste that can be intense when added to foods. It’s best to use the herb in smaller quantities when adding it to salads, broths or soups.

8 Hyssop Benefits by Dr. Josh Axe

1. Heals Respiratory Conditions

Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs. It loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions.

Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats and lung inflammation, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers and lecturers. The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.

2. Fights Parasites

Hyssop has the ability to fight parasites, which are organisms that feed off the nutrients of other organisms. Some examples of parasites include tapeworm, fleas, hookworms and flukes.

3. Fights Infections

Hyssop prevents infections from developing in wounds and cuts. Because of its antiseptic properties, when it’s applied to an opening of the skin, it fights infection and kills bacteria. Hyssop also helps in healing deep cuts, scars, insect bites and even can be one of the great home remedies for acne. Hyssop has antibiotic properties from the plant’s volatile oils. While the antibiotic properties are generally strong, they show the best results on shallow wounds and fungus infections.

4. Increases Circulation

An increase in blood flow or circulation in the body benefits the heart and the body’s muscles and arteries. Hyssop improves and promotes circulation because of its anti-rheumatic properties. By increasing circulation, hyssop can work as a natural remedy for gout, rheumatism, arthritis and swelling. Your heart rate lowers when your blood circulates properly, and then your heart muscles relax and your blood pressure flows evenly throughout the body, affecting every organ.

So many people are looking for natural arthritis cures because it can be a crippling condition. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain. By increasing circulation, hyssop oil and tea inhibit swelling and inflammation, allowing the blood to flow through the body and relieve the pressure that builds up because of clogged arteries.

Because of its ability to improve circulation, hyssop oil is also a home remedy and treatment for hemorrhoids, which are experienced by 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are caused by an increase in pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum. The pressure on the veins causes swelling, pain and bleeding.

5. Relieves Muscle Pain and Spasms

Almost everybody has likely experienced discomfort in his or her muscles at some point. Because almost every part of the body has muscle tissue, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.

In addition, hyssop oil helps the body rid itself of excessive salts, fluids, sodium and other toxic substances through urine. As a natural diuretic, hyssop oil reduces inflammation, swelling and rheumatic pain.

6. Supports Healthy Immune Response

Hyssop improves circulation and digestion, while it kills bacteria and parasites — all of these benefits boost the immune system to work properly. By decreasing inflammation and allowing blood to run through our organs, hyssop oil maintains the function of the entire body.

7. Helps Digestion

Hyssop oil is a stimulant, so it increases the production of secretions, like bile, digestive enzymes and acid. These gastric juices are necessary in order to break down food as it makes its way to the stomach. We have digestive juices that contain enzymes in order to speed up the chemical reactions in the body and break down food into nutrients.

By facilitating digestion, hyssop oil helps with the decomposition of complex proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients. Because the digestive system interacts with all other body systems, including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, the role that hyssop plays as a stimulant is very beneficial. Hyssop oil can also be helpful with releasing gas and indigestion.

8. Promotes Skin Health

Hyssop oil has the power to diminish the look of scars and work as a natural treatment for acne, pox, boils, stretch marks or wounds. It also promotes cellular regeneration, and the growth of new skin makes old marks fade away. Because hyssop oil is antiseptic, it can kill bacteria on the skin and fight infections. Applying a few drops of this beneficial oil to your skin keeps you looking younger and healthier.


Growing Hyssop 

Hyssop does best with well-drained soil and full sun, and when it becomes too big, it needs to be clipped. The plant attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees, which encourages pollination naturally. It also makes an excellent companion plant to cabbage to keep away cabbage whiteflies.

If you plan to pick or cut the leaves for drying, do it on a sunny day to ensure that you get the highest concentration of active ingredients. Let the leaves air-dry in a sunny place with plenty of air and circulation; it takes about six days before they’re completely dry. For storage, keep the dried herbs in an airtight container.

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Make Your Own Essential Oil

Before drying the plant, you can make your own essential oil. Cut the leaves and flowers of a mature hyssop plant early in the morning. Rinse them and let them dry completely, then chop them up into fine pieces. When you crush the chopped pieces, the oil begins to come out of the herb slowly. All you need is a few drops mixed with a carrier oil to take advantage of hyssop’s wound-healing and vaporizing capabilities.

  • For aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 3–5 drops of hyssop oil.

Hyssop Tea Recipe

To make your own hyssop tea, start by boiling two cups of water. Add two tablespoons of fresh hyssop leaves to the water and let it steep for 30 minutes.  It is also recommended that you brew the hyssop tea in a closed container. This prevents the beneficial essences of the tea from escaping. After preparing the tea, you can enjoy hyssop tea two or three times per day.


Possible Side Effects and Precautions 

Hyssop is considered safe for most people in the amounts commonly found in foods and in medicinal amounts. It’s not safe to use hyssop during pregnancy because it might cause the uterus to contract or start menstruation, and these effects could lead to a miscarriage. It’s not known whether hyssop is safe to use during breastfeeding, so avoid using it or speak to your doctor first. Do not give hyssop to children; convulsions were reported in a child who took 2–3 drops of hyssop oil over several days.

If you have a history of seizures, do not use hyssop because it may trigger seizures or make them worse. When using hyssop oil, do not exceed 30 drops a day because it’s a convulsant and may increase your risk of having a seizure. Hyssop is also known to increase blood pressure, which can be beneficial to people with low blood pressure, but problematic for people who are trying to lower their levels.

Resources

  1. McVicar, Jekka. (2010). Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
  2. McVicar, Jekka. (2006). Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  3. Website: Wise Woman Herbal Ezine: Nourish Yourself…Anise Hyssop: A Perennial Native by Thea Summer Deer
  4. Website: Dr. Josh Axe

Featured photograph of Hyssop by Jane Grueber

Other photographs courtesy of Pexels.com

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Beauty All Around ~ Nature Photography

A Sufi holy man was asked, “What is forgiveness?” He said, “It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.”

It is a pleasure and privileged to revel in nature especially as the colors, fragrances and textures explode all around.

Borage has come back to life and once again graced us with its edible star-shaped flowers. Bees love these as they refill with nectar every two minutes.

Gorgeous Columbine grows in the community garden.

Over the last week, I took to nature to clear my head and let go of the old.

Wild flowers call to me.

The quiet solitude of the mossy forest is indescribable.

Slugs enjoy the soft carpet.

Mossy logs team with life and selflessly provide a home for countless creatures.

Dodds Narrows where the the water flows and whirlpools swirls. The seals frolic in the strong current.  It is also a passage way for Orca pods and other whales as they follow their food source.

Top Quote from The Renegade Press by Chris Nichols

All Photography by  Jane Grueber

See my photo gallery here

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In the Light ~ Nature Photography

 “The light of love restores every lost voice.” ~ Janette Oke

There is the perpetual sunshine bringing a smile to all those who pass by.

Then there are those who unveil themselves to the world to show their true strength. Even when they lose something, they remain whole.

Those who feel the light deep inside while the outside world saps their beautiful colors.

Those who are so old and wise they rest peacefully and gloriously in being.  Unafraid.

Those who bring forth life.

Those who unravel.

Those who become prickly for self-protection.

Those who hold the weak closer to the light.

And those that just look good in the morning light.       

                  ~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photographs by Jane Grueber

View my photo gallery here.

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Beach Time on Vancouver Island: Nature Photography

As summer approaches, the anticipation of hot sun, soft sand, barnacled rocks, lapping waves and cool ocean air washing over my mind and body gets me a little giddy. It’s never too early to head to the beach and take in all that its wonders.

Little treasures are found along the way when one is open to all possibilities.

Pausing to reflect on the immense force of nature that lies so tranquil on a sunny day.

The freedom to lose yourself in each moment. Playing. Pondering. Unhurried. Seeing anew with the curiosity and excitement of a child.

Observing tiny movers and shakers tending their lot.

Inhaling the salty air perfumed with the sweetest blossoms.

Restoring the wind in your sails. Harnessing the breeze.

All to remind us of our imperative to be stewards of this planet.

              ~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photographs by Jane Grueber

See my photo gallery here.

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Wild Flowers of Vancouver Island ~ Nature Photography

The beauty of spring is in plain sight. On this particular hike in Central Vancouver Island, where ever we looked, there were burgundy, yellow, blue and purple flowers nestled among the soft, dewy greens.

We admired the unique shapes of the flowers and pondered whether the fairies used them as umbrellas, hats or cups to sip nectar.

We explored caves usually hidden completely in the winter months by the high tide.  Water is an incredible artist; creating slowly, silently and without resistance.

Just when we thought there could not possibly be any more purple flowers, there they were, imploring us to take their picture.

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Performing.
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Bowing.

Imagine what it would be like to live so freely as to lay here in the summer months on the softest moss, with the delicate scent of flowers swirling all around, lulling you into a day dream.

Happy hikers returning home. Hearts filled with infinite gratitude for what is.

         ~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photographs by Jane Grueber.

See my photo gallery here.