Everything old about Western North Carolina’s native plants is new again, with a twist.
Mountain plants have been used as medicines ever since the Cherokee arrived. “The Cherokee believe plant medicine has the power to regain and maintain proper health of the mind, body, and spirit,” Samantha Goelz wrote on academic.edu.
The settlers who followed the Cherokee did not have that breadth of belief. Nevertheless, they recognized the healing power of many plants. Throughout the 20th century rural folks collected ginseng, galax and other herbs from the woods and sold them to earn much-neeeded cash.
The Wilcox Drug Company in Boone dates from 1900. Gen. Grant Wilcox would buy plant materials from across the mountains to ship through New York brokers to pharmaceutical companies.
Wild plants still are being used, but now they are processed into manufactured products. “It’s not just shaking the dirt off some roots and bringing it to market,” said Chris Reedy, who heads Blue Ridge Food Ventures.
Reedy’s agency has added a natural products manufacturing line to help start-ups making skin care, cosmetics and dietary supplements. This is no “a pinch of this” operation; quality control standards are rigorous.
“WNC is now home to this industry that goes all the way from the field from people growing and harvesting plants to manufacturers processing materials at Blue Ridge Food Ventures, to quality testing at A-B Tech and the U.S. Botanical Safety Lab, all the way to the market,” said Matt Raker, senior vice president with AdvantageWest.
In the last three years, 15 new manufacturers have created 48 full-time jobs. Nearly 1,500 farmers have been trained and 44 new acres have been put in the production of native plants. About 80 local companies are featured in the Mother Earth News Fair at the WNC Ag Center this weekend.
These newcomers join an already impressive list of established companies. Dr. Frank King opened his first King Bio homeopathic medicine factory in Leicester in 1989. He employs more than 100 people on a 25-acre campus off Emma Road. His company reported $10 million in sales last year.
Gaia Herbs moved to the region in 1997. Now 140 workers produce 300 lines of herbs and nutritional supplements in a 25,000-square-foot facility near Brevard.
Mountain Herbs in Burnsville advertises “the largest collection of native Appalachian and Chinese medicinal herbs in the Eastern U.S., organically grown at the foot of the Black Mountains in Western North Carolina.”
The demand for products made from native plants in turn increases demand for those plants. “We’re super-focused on local farmers,” said Clare Schwartz of Wounded Warrior Skin Ointment.
“We really love living here and we’re seeing the natural products industry taking off here. More farmers and growers are getting involved and seeing how they can make money.”
Besides the efforts of AdvantageWest, the cultivation of medicinal plants is being championed by N.C. State University. Its work includes a test site for Chinese medicinal herb production at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River.
The native-plant movement is just one more example of how the region is building on its natural assets for economic development. Farmers benefit from growing the plants, which makes more of them able to stay on the land.
The factories that process those plants provide jobs frequently at wages well above the minimum. Employment still is relatively low, but the industry is growing rapidly.
Those farmers and those workers are largely immune from competition because they deal in products found only in the North Carolina mountains.
In short, the native-plant movement is a winner at more than one level.
Those who believe that the best stories are told by the people themselves will find much to enjoy in Diane Williams’ “Mississippi Folk and the Tales They Tell: Myths, Legends and Bald-Faced Lies.” However, readers expecting to find a re-hash of already widely published Mississippi legends like “Pascagoula — the Singing River” or “Stuckey’s Bridge” will be let down. And those readers would be missing Williams’ point.
In her new book, Williams, program director for the Mississippi Arts Commission, has compiled an assortment of tales told by local residents from towns scattered across the state. A few of her storytellers are professionals, like Mary Etta Moody, but most of her sources are ordinary men and women who either had the experiences they talk about or who passed down stories they have heard. Consequently, reading these stories is like listening to your neighbor spinning yarns that took place “years ago.”
The majority of the chapters focus on stories produced by Mississippi’s African-American community. Williams’ informants talk very frankly about nearly forgotten facets of rural life, like moonshining, frog gigging and hog-killin’ time. The unmistakable “fragrance” of outhouses, the folk wisdom of midwives, and the rhythmic chants of the gandy dancers also get their due in this book. Many of these tales are laced with a gentle sense of humor, such as the one about the colorful beetle that crawled onto the back of a milking cow and eventually “went right into one ear and came out the udder,” or the story about the two-dollar mule that ate over 20 pounds of fertilizer and was found the next morning sitting on its haunches, stiff as a board.
The book also provides a window into the daily lives of country people living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One learns that cucumbers that are less than three inches long make the best pickles, that the tabin turtle smells too bad to eat, and that chitterlings, hogs head cheese, and pigs’ feet are mighty good eatin’ when nothing else is available. One entire chapter is devoted to hoodoo, or folk magic, which helped people “read the signs” or choose the right medicinal herbs for specific ailments.
The historical background of several of the legends constitute, for this reader, the most fascinating parts of the book. Williams writes about the origin of the names of towns, such as “Murder Creek,” and about the smuggling of cotton seeds hidden inside doll babies to Natchez.
A number of colorful characters populate the book, like a conjure woman named “Old Lula,” an 8-foot-tall giant named Chalmus who vanished into the woods for two years, or an old man named McCauley who lived in an old well in Okolona. Even Andrew Jackson’s visit to the John Ford House in Sandy Hook receives mention in the book.
Granted, “Mississippi Folk and the Tales They Tell” does not conform to the anthropologist’s concept of the ideal collection of folklore. No motif numbers are listed in the end, although Williams does include some information about some of the people she interviewed. Most of these very short tales have been filtered through the author’s very colloquial narrative voice.
For the general reader, this is a good thing. By the time the book is finished, we feel as if we have listened to “the genuine article” and not to some scholar’s rendition of what Mississippi folks should sound like.
Alan Brown of Meridian teaches at the University of West Alabama and is the author of numerous works of folklore such as “Shadows and Cypress: Southern Ghost Stories.”
“Miss. Folk and the Tales They Tell”by Diane Williams
The same was true for Eliza Wornall, wife of prosperous frontier farmer John Wornall whose farm once overlooked the western frontier and now stands witness to over 150 years of Kansas City history.
Did the sage survive the winter? Should the chives be divided this spring?
Eliza would have to decide which plants were useful not only for summer cooking, but for the autumn harvest and setting up the family’s winter food stores.
Like the typical 1800s housewife, Eliza was responsible for everything associated with the kitchen. If a family had household help it was most often a cook, but the mistress directed all work and needed full knowledge of food preparation and preservation techniques.
Herbs were critical for culinary use and were also popular for their folkloric medicinal qualities, so each family had herbs in the kitchen garden — and the garden was among the first things planted on a new homestead.
Sage was essential for seasoning sausages made from pork, locally the most commonly consumed meat since pigs fattened more quickly than cattle and did not require large grasslands for grazing.
Pungent sage also paired well with cornmeal that was used far more frequently than costlier flour. Sage tea was said to comfort sore throats and believed to hold overall rejuvenating powers.
Dill was a staple for pickling large quantities of vegetables including cucumbers and beans harvested in peak summer months. Dill seeds, as well as those of coriander and caraway, were employed for various ailments ranging from coughs and colic to hiccups, nausea and bad breath.
Leaves of parsley appeared in salads and stews much like today, but all parts of the plant were leveraged historically for medicinal use.
A parsley-seed rinse was recommended to remove hair lice, a poultice of crushed parsley leaves would be applied to sooth insect bites and dried parsley root tea would be brewed and taken as a diuretic.
Flowering herbs would yield their blossoms for both consumption and topical use.
Yellow-orange safflowers would give dishes a golden hue at substantially less cost — but with significantly less flavor — than saffron.
Delicate purple-blue borage flowers would be coated in egg white and dusted in sugar then dried into candy confections.
Yellow St. John’s wort flowers were soaked in alcohol or vegetable oil, making a lotion to smooth rough skin or comfort minor sores.
Undoubtedly Mrs. Wornall used some of the bleak winter months to plan her spring plantings for the family farm.
Eventually the first green chives would push their way through the soil and, just like today’s gardeners, Eliza would welcome their presence like the first day of spring.
Visitors are invited to learn more about period herb plantings and their use at the 26th Annual Herb and Wildflower Sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26 at the John Wornall House Museum, 6115 Wornall Road.
This year the house kitchen will be open for conversation about the culinary and medicinal herbs. Admission is free.
Attend the Herb Cocktail Party featuring chef Shannon “FireBug” Kimball from 5 to 8 p.m. April 24 at The Alexander Majors House Barn, 8201 State Line Road. Tickets are $35 per person online by clicking here or by calling 816-444-1858.
Julienne Gehrer is a writer, period cook and author of “In Season: Cooking Fresh from the Kansas City Farmers’ Market” available at ashgrovepress.com. Julienne also leads the Kansas City region of The Jane Austen Society of North America and is writing a book about foods associated with the author’s life and works. Follow her culinary journey at diningwithjaneausten.org.
OM ASTHA RAI
KATHMANDU, April 9: In April 2009, a fire that tore through a community forest of Ramechhap district claimed the lives of as many as 13 Nepal Army (NA) soldiers. They had been mobilized to contain the fire after it began spreading toward the Ramechhap District Hospital. As soon as the soldiers entered into the forest, the wind started blowing in the opposite direction, leaving no room for them to flee anywhere. The charred remains of all the soldiers were found later.
In Nepal, this is the most shocking tragedy caused by wildfires in the last five years. Since 2009, there have not been so many deaths in a single wildfire incident. However, wildfires continue to claim human lives every year. This year alone, as many as seven people have already been killed by wildfires as of now. And, these are just reported deaths. More people might have been killed or injured by wildfires in far-flung forest areas.
Loss of human lives is just one dimension of damage caused by wildfires. Apart from human deaths, wild animals, biodiversity, medicinal herbs and forestry products worth millions of rupees also face threats from wildfires in Nepal every year.
In this photo from April last year, a wildlife that broke out in Bandevi community forest is seen spreading almost to Tansen bazaar of Palpa. (Tek Narayan Bhattarai/ Republica)
“By a conservative estimate, forestry products worth about Rs 440 million were reduced to ashes in 2012,” says Sundar Sharma, coordinator of Regional South Asia Wildland Fire Network, which is a component of the UN-ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction). “If wildfires cause such a huge financial damage in just one year, how much money will we lose in ten years?”
Between 2009 and 2012, altogether 63 people have been killed and 58 injured by wildfires, according to the UN-ISDR´s South Asia network. In this same period, 590 houses and 49 sheds have been gutted by wildfires. “Due to lack of immediate interventions, wildfires at times spread to nearby human settlements and damage private properties, too,” explains Sharma.
In a move to control wildfires, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has developed a system to detect active forest fires. Through satellites, a station set up by the ICIMOD in Kathmandu not only traces active wildfires but also posts detailed information about them on its website. At the same time, it automatically sends fire alerts through emails and SMSes to forest authorities and key members of Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs). “We are trying to send active fire alerts to a wider group of stakeholders,” says Pashupati Koirala, an officer at the Department of Forest (DoF).
However, despite making a remarkable progress in detection of active fires, controlling wildfires is still proving to be an uphill task in Nepal. Lack of human resources, skills and equipments combined with geographical difficulty have made it almost impossible for forest authorities as well as CFUG members to effectively deal with wildfires.
“We get regular fire alerts,” says Apsara Chapagain, president of Federation of Community Forest Users´ Group Nepal (FECOFUN). “But these alerts are virtually useless. What is the use of such alerts if you can do nothing to control wildfires? At times, forest fire rages in front of our own eyes but we feel helpless.”
According to Chapagain, members of some 15 CFUGs were trained to fight forest fires under a project two years ago. “They were also provided with forest fighting tools,” says she. “The trained and well-equipped CFUG members are pretty good at fighting wildfires. But how can we expect to fight wildfires across the country by handing equipments to such a few people?”
Just last year, the Japan government provided 53 vehicles and 120 sets of fire fighting tools to the Nepal government. However, the District Forest Offices (DFOs) lack manpower to use those tools. About 500 of the total 1,086 posts of armed forest guards and over 700 of the total 2,756 posts of unarmed forest guards have been lying vacant for a long time. “In forestry sector, we just have hakims (bosses) but not those staff who are ready to work on the field,” says a forest official. “In such condition, it is possible that fire fighting equipments will be lying unused.”
Community´s role is important
Community´s role is important
Coordinator, Regional South Asia Wildland Fire Network
How serious is the threat of wildfire in Nepal?
It is a big threat. It is a threat to human lives and properties, wild animals, biodiversity, forestry products including medicinal herbs. At times, wildfires spread to human settlements and reduce properties to ashes. Even people get killed in wildfires. This year alone, as many as seven people have died in wildfires. Forestry products worth millions of rupees are gutted by wildfires every year. Its damage is beyond measurement.
Some people, including forestry experts, argue that wildfires are part of a natural process and good for growth of forests. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. But it is good only if wildfires are managed with prescription. I mean we need controlled burning to reduce the forest fuel. Wildfires always burn down old, drying and decaying plants, bushes, leaves and twigs, creating space for new plants to germinate and grow. Remains of the burnt plants are like fertilizers and make the soil more fertile. However, wildfires are not properly managed in Nepal. In dry season, you can see wildfires everywhere, even in national parks inhabited by endangered species such as tigers and rhinos. If a rhino is killed by wildfires, how much loss will we incur?
How serious are forest authorities about wildfire management?
Not really. The Forest Ministry lacks dedicated institution and human resources capable of dealing with wildfires. It is not able to even retain a few available experts. In 2010, the government came up with a national strategy for forest fire management. In its strategy, the government has stated that it will develop an institution to tackle the epidemic of wildfires. But no progress has been made so far in that direction. There is no specific section or authority at the Forest Ministry for forest fire management. Why does the Forest Ministry not set up a unit for fighting forest fires? Forest fires can be both cause and effect of climate change. So, if we develop a strong institution within the Forest Ministry to manage wildfires, it will not be difficult for us to find financial support from international donor agencies working in the sector of climate change.
How capable are the District Forest Offices (DFOs) in dealing with wildfires?
Individually, we have capable forest officials who have the willingness to do something. But our institutions are weak. They are constrained by the lack of financial and technical resources. They do not have adequate and appropriate firefighting tools and skilled human resources to manage forest fires. In such a situation all they can do is pray for Indra (the rain god). Quite often, wildfires continue to spread unless they are extinguished by rains. They are helpless.
So, in present situation, what could be the best way to combat wildfires?
Community-based forest fire management (CBFIM) could be the best option. Firstly, we have nearly 18,000 Community Forest Users´ Groups (CFUGs) in Nepal. Similarly, there are several other community-based cultural groups. They can be mobilized for forest fire management. But they cannot always work voluntarily. If they are to be mobilized in a sustainable way, there must be a livelihood option for them. Secondly, for this, the government has to develop a multi-year fire management program for a long run. As part of my research, I had implemented this concept in Sundar Community Forest of Makwanpur district with support from the German Foreign Office and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). I am proud to say that the government has incorporated this concept into the policy and the government and its development partners have also incorporated the learning of community-based forest fire management program of Makawnpur in programs like Tarai Arch Landscape (TAL) project and Multistakeholder Forestry Programme (MSFP) in their project areas and beyond.
PressTV – 2500 types of medicinal herbs dicovered in Iran
Iran is among the most geographically diverse countries in the world. This ancient country can be divided into 12 separate geographical environments and 5 major climates. No wonder Iran is so diverse when it comes to the natural herbal remedies it produces. Proven to be the most effective treatment, Iranian medicine has no side effects because it uses medicinal herbs. Traditional Persian medicine is practiced for nearly 4000 years. Modern medicine is greatly indebted to early Iranian physicians. Great Iranian scientists, Mohammad Zakaria Razi who discovered alcohol, and Avicenna who is known as the father of modern medicine, were two great Iranian physicians contributing to the development of modern medicine through observation and experiment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), herbal medicine is getting popular worldwide According to reports, four billion people worldwide use herbal medicine for treatment. In countries like China, Canada, India, France, Australia and US, herbal medicine is the first choice for primary healthcare. The global trade in medicinal herbs is valued at $12 billion. Experts believe the effectiveness of Persian medicine could be used in tandem with modern medicine to cure unknown diseases.
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HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Exports of goods identified by the government as highly potential in generating foreign income fell by 1.13 per cent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, due to drop in demand for products like lentil, medicinal herbs and ginger in the foreign market.
Exports of these highly prioritised goods fetched Rs 18.37 billion between mid-July 2013 and mid-March, as against Rs 18.58 billion recorded in the same period last fiscal, show the latest statistics of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre.
The amount generated from exports of these goods, listed in the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) — the government’s export promotion blueprint — made a 30 per cent contribution to the total export earning of Rs 60.98 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal.
The government has listed 12 goods in the NTIS, of which seven are agro-food products and the rest are craft and industrial goods. These products include cardamom, ginger, honey, lentil, tea, noodles, medicinal herbs and essential oil, handmade paper, silver jewellery, iron and steel, pashmina and wool products.
Of these products, exports of lentil dropped by a whopping 43.8 per cent to Rs 1.33 billion in the first eight months. “This is because of drop in demand for the product in Bangladesh, the largest buyer of Nepali lentil, coupled with reduction in export incentive to two per cent from four per cent in the past,” a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies said.
During the period, exports of two other agricultural products listed in NTIS — ginger and medicinal herbs — also fell. Exports of ginger dropped by 65.7 per cent to Rs 318.17 million, while that of medicinal herbs declined by 18.7 per cent to Rs 842.40 million in the eight-month period.
“Exports of these agricultural products declined because of various non-tariff barriers erected by various countries, including India,” an official of the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) said.
Nepal has long been facing problems in exports of medicinal herbs and vegetables, like cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, green peas and chayote, to India, as these commodities are not included in India’s Plant Quarantine Order.
Although the government issues phytosanitary certificates to facilitate exports of these products to India, problems arise when Indian authorities fail to recognise them as valid documents and demand that samples be sent to laboratories as far as New Delhi and Kolkata for further tests.
“We are trying to sort out these issues by holding talks with concerned Indian authorities but we have not been able to fix a date,” the MoAD official said.
Among others, exports of silver jewellery, which is also included in the NTIS list, also fell by 68 per cent to Rs 38.05 million in the first eight months due to lacklustre demand in the European market.
Despite drop in exports of these products, the country was able to earn foreign currency worth Rs 3.34 billion from exports of cardamom, up 42.9 per cent than in the same period last fiscal. Similarly, exports of essential oil surged by 125 per cent to Rs 92.37 million, exports of noodles and pasta went up by 34.8 per cent to Rs 512.05 million, exports of tea grew by 6.9 per cent to Rs 1.33 billion and exports of woollen and pashmina shawls increased by 0.6 per cent to Rs 1.47 billion.
Chamomile is one of the oldest and most popular medicinal herbs, but it has also become one of the best studied by modern medicine. According to one medical paper, more than one million cups of camomile tea are consumed per day around the world. For good reason, as this little white flower can have some big benefits for your health.
There are two types of chamomile typically used for medicinal purposes, German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). There’s a very low risk of side effects to using chamomile as a tea or extract, however some people can be allergic to its pollen. People who suffer from ragweed allergies should be cautious.
1. Fall asleep faster
Chamomile tea and and essential oil aromatherapy are widely used to help induce sleep. Yet the effectiveness of chamomile as a sleep aide hasn’t been subjected to much clinical study. However on a chemical level, chamomile extracts have been shown to have sedative properties. So, go ahead and take your grandmother’s advice and have a cup of this herbal tea before bed.
2. Sooth common cold symptoms
We can’t say that chamomile is a cure for the common cold, but it can reduce suffering from its symptoms. Preliminary studies show that inhaling steam containing chamomile extract soothes the discomfort caused by an upper respiratory infection. Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory compounds, which may explain these benefits.
3. Reduce stress
Chamomile contains apigenin, a compound that has anti-anxiety effects. One study found that patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder showed moderate benefits from taking camomile extract capsules when compared to a placebo.
4. Boost the immune system
A small study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that drinking chamomile tea boosts antibacterial compounds in the body. The researchers think this could explain why regular consumption of chamomile seems to fight colds, although more study would be needed to establish a definitive link.
Franz Eugen Köhler/Public Domain
Other traditional uses for chamomile are treating upset stomach, easing cramps, and as a topically for wounds, eczema and chickenpox. However, its usefulness for these conditions have been studied less.
By DAVID BORAKS
Saturday was buzzing in downtown Davidson as the Davidson Farmer’s Market started its 2014 season. Kids played in the Mary Beaty tot lot, hundreds of market goers shopped and mingled, guitarist Rusty Knox picked original tunes and visitors checked out the new Millstone Bake House and new offerings at Summit Coffee.
That all bodes well for the market’s eighth year selling local meats, produce, cheeses, honey and prepared foods from area farmers and vendors.
After a couple of years squeezed into a smaller space, the market has spread out again to the space it occupied a few years ago, from behind Summit Coffee to Town Hall. New nearby businesses including The Eden Street Market (across the railroad tracks from Jackson Street), The Pickled Peach and the bakery also give shoppers more options for coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and more. And Summit Coffee had added new treats to its menu, such as scones baked in the kitchen at its new Davidson College campus outlet.
“I think the feel of the market is going to be even more exciting and vibrant this year,” market manager Courtney Spear said last week as she prepared for opening day. “Those additions of The Pickled Peach and the bakery, even Summit’s new offerings … will bring even more people to town.”
That certainly seemed to be the case opening day, as shoppers packed the market ground. That, despite somewhat limited offerings of produce: This winter’s relatively colder temperatures have the growing season off to a late start for most of the farmers. That also means delays the appearance of some spring treats, such a strawberries.
These unpredictable elements of local food were once the norm, with some vegetables and fruits appearing only seasonally. We’ve disconnected from that experience because of the year-round availability of produce at chain groceries.
Some vendors weren’t there for opening day. “Every year is different. It’s interesting to know that they’re all in the same position. Some of them have high tunnels (greenhouses), but for the most part, everything is delayed,” Spear said.
Saturday’s market featured a cooking demonstration from Chef Joe Kindred of Davidson, who cooks at Rooster’s Uptown in Charlotte. He and other popular local chefs will demonstrate twice a month this year.
Meanwhile, the market also plans educational demos in other weeks, as part of an effort to boost market-goers’ knowledge about local food. Those are expected to include everything from strawberries to medicinal herbs to meats and knife sharpening to backyard farming to food preservation.”
These sessions will be under the main market tent just like the chef demos, “taking center stage,” Spear said.
The market is unchanged in size About 38 to 40 vendors are expected during peak season. Most will be returning from previous years.
The Root Down food truck will be returning in a few week, and the market is currently searching for a second food truck to replace The Homegrown Crepe, which has moved on.
Two new vendors are in the lineup: Beverly’s Gourmet Foods of Charlotte, specializing in gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian foods; and a dog treat vendor named CJ’s Pawsome Pastries.
DAVIDSON FARMER’S MARKET
The regular season market runs every Saturday, 8am to noon, from April to November, at the market ground next to Davidson Town Hall, 216 S. Main St. Find out more and sign up for their mailing list at DavidsonFarmersMarket.
DavidsonNews.net and CorneliusNews.net are pleased to be the media sponsor of the Davidson Farmer’s Market.
Click any image to launch a slide show.
Fiddler’s Vineyard offered samples of its muscadine, scuppernong and other sweet N.C. wines. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
Joe Kindred, a Davidson resident and chef at Rooster’s Uptown in Charlotte, offered a cooking demonstration under the big tent. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
Davidson-based singer/songwriter Rusty Knox provided the opening day soundtrack with his original music. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
The market’s Growing Kids Club had activities, including planting tomatoes in the plot behind Summit Coffee. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
Jane Henderson of Commonwealth Farms in Concord had fresh flowers. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
Tommy Barbee of Barbee Farms in Concord picks out pepper and tomato plants for a customer. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
Produce was limited for most farmers. The growing season is off to a slow start because this winter’s cold. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
The Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Concord was there with a table, offering advice and tomato plants. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
The Mary Beaty Tot Lot is a favorite with the younger market-going crowd. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
It may have taken its own time, but my wish to experience Ubud ,the place that prominently figured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love finally came true.The writer had described the place as the “Last Paradise on Earth” and in my view, she hadn’t exaggerated at all.
Often called “The Artist’s Town” and “Creative Heart of the Island”, Ubud is a platform for the creative efforts of its simple people. The moment I reached this tiny town, I knew tourists had discovered it long ago. Elegant five-star hotels and sprawling mansions on its outskirts overlooking the most prized views in Bali were a testimony to that.
Way back in the 1930s, it was among the most chic bohemian destinations in the world, right from Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Margaret Mead to Barbara Hutton, creative minds had frequented this crucible of art in Bali.
Sometime in 1927, a German artist called Walter Spies arrived at Ubud and was suitably enchanted to make it his home for the next 14 years. He is believed to have discovered the creative potential of Ubud and helped to place it on the bucket list of travellers.
However, over the years, what was a haven for scruffy backpackers, cosmic seekers, artists and bohemians has now transformed into a hot spot for literati, glitterati, art collectors and connoisseurs. Ubud has also been the abode of royalty for more than a century and therefore has several palaces. In fact, it is also known as the “Royal Town”.
The Artist’s Town
The entire road from Denpasar to Ubud is lined with artisan villages. Batubalan village is known for its stone-carving and Celuk is famous for jewellery. Then there is Batuan, best known for its paintings. Apart from traditional Balinese art forms, the place also boasts of international influences thanks to the many well-known artists who flocked to the place in 1930s from different parts of the world.
My guide, Wayan, informed me that Bali wasn’t always an artists’ village. It was earlier known as an important source of medicinal herbs and plants. From there we made our way to Batubulan. Most of the stone sculptures seen in Balinese temples are supplied from this village.They also contribute a large number of installations to museums, palaces, restaurants and city squares.
Apart from stone carvings, the place is also known for its Barong dancers, another attraction that has tourists flocking in. Next stop, Batuan offered a vibrant depiction of epics and Buddha’s teachings hanging on kitschy walls.
The village, which along with Ubud had been hailed as a centre for art way back in the 1930s, today caters to demands from the Western markets as well. It now has entire families involved in creative pursuits. While one member of the family finishes the outlines of a work, another one fills in the colours.
A little away, Celuk village turned out to be a treasure trove of jewellery.
If you’re looking to pick up knick-knacks and gift items, there’s a whole range to choose from traditional Balinese paintings, woodcarvings, lovely woven baskets and batik prints are a few options. It doesn’t come as a surprise that most faces in the crowded marketplace were foreign.
“The woven baskets come from Sukawati, another village close by,” said my guide Wayan as I ran my fingers over an intricately woven handbag. “The Geringsing cloth comes from Tenganan. That is the only place where it is made. Those ‘Lontars’ come from there, too,” he adds.
Lontar, I discovered, is a beautiful manuscript, narrating stories through exquisite paintings and text. Drawn on dried palm leaves, it is a true collector’s item. Also, when you’re here, make sure you experience two things, the Barong dance and Balinese Spa.
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Q: What is the difference between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs? Can both be grown in our area?
Answer: Culinary and medicinal are terms that refer to the end use of the herb after harvest. Culinary herbs are typically used in cooking. Some of the more popular commercially grown herbs that will grow well include cilantro, chives, dill, French tarragon, horseradish, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, sweet basil and thyme. Medicinal herbs have been grown for hundreds of years as traditional medicines. Some of our modern medicines are derived from herbs or are manufactured in laboratories to mimic the botanical compounds found in medicinal herbs. Herbs such as American ginseng, black cohosh, bloodroot, purple coneflower, pale purple coneflower, narrow leaf purple coneflower, false unicorn, and goldenseal are examples of herbs grown for medicinal uses. Both culinary and medicinal herbs can be grown in our area. Each herb has specific conditions for growth. Research the herb you are interested in growing and set up a small test plot to see if you enjoy growing it. More information is available in the following leaflets from the Extension: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/introsheets/herbs.pdf (culinary herbs) http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/specialty_crops/medherbs/1.htm (medicinal herbs).
Q: I have heard that using no-till practices is good for the soil. How do you grow vegetables in a no-till system?
Answer: No-till is an agricultural practice most often associated with agronomic or row crops such as soybeans, wheat and corn. It is a practice that can be used with vegetable crops under the right soil conditions. Our clay soil must be amended. Adding organic matter to the soil will help improve the structure, workability and water-holding capacity. A two-inch layer of compost added to the soil surface and then worked in to a depth of 4 to 6 inches works well. Raising your seed or planting beds in the garden is a good idea. Some growers construct permanent raised beds. Avoid walking on your seed/planting beds as compaction will destroy your hard work. Use of wheat straw mulch during the growing season helps to protect the soil from winds and pelting raindrops. There is the added benefit of turning the straw under as another source of organic matter at the end of the growing season. Once the soil structure has been improved, use hand tools to turn under and prepare your seed/planting beds. Tilling pulverizes soil particles, allowing water to evaporate more quickly. Tilling also disturbs soil microbes, the tiny livestock that is helping to promote nutrient uptake through healthy roots. Tilling exposes weeds from the dormant weed seedbed underneath the soil surface. Moving to no-till gardening is a transitional process and it may take some time and hard work. It may take as long as a season to move away from churning power equipment, but doing so will reduce your workload, save money on fuel and equipment, as well as reduce the noise pollution in the spring.
Mary Jac Brennan is the commercial horticulture agent for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (336) 703-2850.
Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:30 pm.
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