Monday, February 28, 2011

White Pine (Pinus strobus) by JoAnn Quattrone


White Pine (Pinus strobus)
By JoAnn Quattrone

There is a tree much grander and wiser than me.
She offers her medicine for us you see.
I give her an offering of tobacco, corn or sage.
In return she offers her life force to heal any age.
The winters come and the winters go.
There are times when my immunity gets low.

“Here child use these needles when you must for I am strong and robust. I give you vitamins A and C; with this you can make a special tea. I can ease your joint pain, colds and flu, lift your spirits and take your cough away too.”

We have a commitment to each other in the most stupendous way.
We share the breath of life each and every day.

With out a doubt trees play a major role on our planet. They offer a place of rest for the winged ones, a place to play for the four legged ones, food, medicine and most of all they gift us with the breath of life.

Earth Mother says” Someday you too will have children and your children will have children and so on. I offer everything to sustain you, in return you must sustain me.”

I am so blessed by having met so many sharing, generous, caring souls in the last couple of years. Beautiful JoAnn sent me a message including this poem of hers, and was gracious enough to allow me to share it with you all. Thank you JoAnn. You inspire me greatly and your compassion shines through in your prose xx


Herbal Ally Challenge #4 - Impressions

Herbal Ally challenge #4, impressions gets the creative juices flowing. As Kristine worded it so beautifully, “… into our hearts and minds.”


There is an elegant windswept impression of Miss Pinus strobus, when I approach her. She seems to be reaching out to the universe, from her seeking, reaching tips. At the same time, she seems focused in her personal journey of laying layer after layer of limbs, branches, bark and twigs, not in a precise pattern, but still a forward progressing pattern, leaving room for the whims of creative license of placement.


In monochrome, these same observations apply, only in a more extreme impression. Her reaching seems more prominent, while at the same time, her core being is enhanced.


I love the shading effect, which gives a cool 3D effect.  I feel as if I am seeing her auras!


The patterns in the fabric of life, always fascinate me. I can see myself getting lost in the challenge time and time again! lol And when looking at white pine as a squirrel might while climbing her, well, it just makes me wish my husband had never trimmed her lowed limbs, as I just want to climb her! Miss Pinus strobus has a strong core, with beautiful yearly growth, (which is her learning, living experiences). She just gives me the impression of stability, and steadiness,  but fully, vibrantly, expanding energy,which is enhanced in these pictures


I feel like I can just see her life flowing through the paler shaded areas.


And again the 3D effect, which is like seeing the bones and the blood flowing, to me.

I am going to have more fun with this challenge in the future. I am hoping to capture her flowing, flexible side.

Herbal Ally Challenge #1 – Complete… for now!

The first challenge Kristine suggested in our Herbal Ally Challenge, was to create a journal cover. I decided to make mine with materials on hand and with a fresh twig of white pine.


Who is that, you ask? Why that is Earl of Seven! I actually named him Earl after the comedy series, My Name is Earl :) It’s all about the karma, baby;-)


I really like being able to just lift the upper edge of the insert section, and get a nice whiff of pine.

I have got a few research type pages written in my journal, but a truly inspirational writing doesn’t come from me, but from the host of our Herbal Ally Challenge, Kristine Brown.


I might order prints I take with my camera, about my journey with Miss Pinus strobus, this year, and include them in the journal design at some point, but for now, this is where the journal is at:)

Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pinus Strobus – White Pine Pictures



The history of pine trees just leaves me awe struck. This tree is a member of the Pinaceae, or Pine Family.  Pinaceae fossil record are found from the Cretaceous period, 144 millions to 65 millions years ago. This time is known as the last portion of the age of dinosaurs. The first fossils of many modern mammals, birds,  insects and the first flowering plants, are also found from that time.

I love the way herbalist Robyn Klein describes the two part Latin names of plants. She suggests, they are like our first and last name, so Pinus strobus,  Pinus, (the genus name), being like our last names, and strobus, (the species name), like our first. The genus Pinus has about 250  species, of mostly evergreen trees, so our pine has a relationship to 250 different trees. In other words, there are 250 other trees, ( occasionally shrubs), with the last name Pinus, but different first names:)  I like to address our pine as Miss Pinus strobus, as she is a bit of a wallflower, as you can see in the next picture.


White pines bark tends to be thin, scaly and dark. Our pine, is an tree about 20 years old, and its bark is dark gray, (tinged rather purplish), and furrowed.

The needles persist for between two and thirty years, or more, then they turn brown and fall to the ground in late summer. My husband raked last fall, and still we have a carpet of brown needles. Pines have long needle bundles in clusters or bundles. Pinus strobus has needles in bundles of five, joined at the base with a thin membrane, they are 4 inches long, and slender. These needles form a cluster which is triangular, and angles toward the tips of the branches.


All pines have whorled branches. Looking up, you can see the single layer of branches around the trunk, all on the same level from each year.


It is beautiful to see this same whorl type pattern, in the way the twigs and then the needles, come off the branches



I am quite drawn to this spiraling, whorling pattern, not unlike the pattern of the circle of life.

Kingdom                     Plantae                     Plants

Subkingdom               Tracheobionta        vascular plants

Superdivision             Spermatophyta       seed plants

Division                       Coniferophyta         conifers

Class                            Pinopsida                

Order                           Pinales

Family                          Pinaceae                  Pine family

Genus                           Pinus L.                   pine

Species                         Pinus strobus L.     Eastern white



The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley

Botany in a Day  by Thomas Elpel

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mighty Old Cottonwoods, Eagles and other Bits

We put into the river at Liverpool. There are several stunning old cottonwood trees at the dock. These trees withstand deep flooding, ice, and the full brunt of anything else Mother Nature throws at them while they stand guarding the Illinois River banks.



Once you make friends with cottonwood, one of the fun things about collecting the buds, is that many times you can find fallen twigs under them.  Which is a very good thing, because the mature trees are certainly out of reach! The tree that it leaning, in the above picture, is just amazing, this is what its backside looks like!GEDC1304

lightening struck! It still it puts out new growth and stands stalwart.

We were surprised to see the river unfrozen bank to bank. They must have the locks wide open upstream and down.

Right away we started seeing Bald Eagles. We try not to get close to them, not only out of respect, but it is also illegal to disturb them, so a few of these pictures you will see just their shape at the top of trees, although I do have one fairly close picture of one and a picture of a nest also:) I quit counting after we had seen 30 eagles, both mature and immature birds.

We rode down the river to the spot on the bank we wanted to dock and get out to walk. The snow was still very much there on the bank that is between the river itself and our special lake although, we did see bits of green life in spots that were melted.  The lake itself was still frozen over completely.

The cottonwoods were equally as tall at this spot as they were at the dock. Our severe spring floods, of the last few years, seems to have taken out some of the younger ones and left the old giants. I spent a good bit of time just searching the ground for fallen branches with buds. I got a nice bit, but some of the buds just didn’t have that beautiful smelling resin to them, so were unusable. Those had probably been lying in the snow too long. I think that with the ones I managed to get, that are beautifully resinous, I am going to infuse some  in a minimal scented oil as I just love, love, love the smell of our cottonwood buds, and would like to have some oil not just for its medicinal properties, but as a lovely natural perfume:) Cottonwood buds resin, also known as Balm of Gilead, is anti microbial, anti inflammatory and analgesic. It stimulates skin healing, and can be beneficial if you suffer from eczema. I have had good relief using it for the itch and pain of shingles, myself. Others in my little tribe find it helpful for cold sores. Both shingles and cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. Makes me think it might help give relief to those who suffer from genital herpes also. Little side note, if you are prone to cold sores, you might try adding foods rich in L Lysine to your diet. I have seen it work for relatives who have done so, or who have taken lysine supplement. Some of the buds will be infused in oil for making pain relieving salves for aches and pains. I am going to make some of them into a cough reliever by infusing them in my honey also:)

While looking at the ground I kept seeing signs of the many deer who live in these woods. Not only their many tracks in the snow and mud, but many droppings I kept almost stepping in :)

On our way back to the dock, a heavy misty fog was settling in. It made a quite mystical scene with the full moon rising.

We happened upon a family of beavers, but I didn’t get a good picture of them. We counted six, before they dived under a sheet of ice. We cut the motor and just sat there for awhile, but the best I could see was just a head poking up near the far bank, where it was melted a bit, as they just stayed out of sight until we left:)

My granddaughter Ariana celebrated her second birthday this last week. Another day she and her brother Colin, age four, spent the day playing with Dylan and I.

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, February 6, 2011

White Pine-Herbal Ally Challenge and Tree Year Project started

Since accepting Kristine’s Herbal Ally Challenge, and joining in the Tree Year Project , I have pulled out some of my books and been delighted at all the information I have discovered about Pine. Was a very full weekend, so I just took the time to bookmark  pages, so I could start documenting my findings in my journal and with you all. I have my first pine needle infusion on the counter also, in order to begin my week of journaling about it, per the Herbal Ally Challenge #2. Will let you know at the end of a week my thoughts and more about my research per Challenge #3 suggestions, which are two fold.  I still need to get my journal cover done also! I better get a move on as I got a late start and I believe Kristine is on Challenge #4 already! lol



And our little white tailed squirrel, that was about as big as a tin can in the fall, is till with us and looks very healthy:)


And Rose Marie is enjoying Lily’s snowflakes


While Dylan enjoyed having his sister, Taylor, home from school during the snow days this week!


Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow Pictures for Rita and A Wonderful Discovery!

Eric and I took a drive and took some snow pictures for my friend Rita. These are two of our lakes


And then… we happened upon something I have been looking for …. the elusive Hawthorn! Yes, that’s right, my day is made! I knew we were suppose to have a couple of different types that grew in my neck of the woods, but danged if I had found them before! lol I am just bursting with happiness and wearing a big grin:) Now when I read the posts Lucinda and several other people, (who chose Hawthorn as their tree to participate with The Year of The Tree blog), I have a Hawthorn to learn from! I can not tell you all how thrilled I am:) Or can you tell?

And not just one, but all of these within a quarter mile

Please give me feedback, someone, on if you think the berries are still okay? :) I am fresh out of the ones I had ordered earlier this year. You see, I had heard her calling…. I just couldn’t find her!

Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Oh and Rita, I will get you more pictures! I got so excited I forgot to take anymore! xx

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Buzzy’s Best!


Congratulations to my handsome, intelligent, hard working grandson Evan. Although this week he is going by his Scottish name of Euan, which means young warrior! lol Buzzy Bee recipients receive a $20 Bee-a-Saver account at a local bank, a t-shirt, a certificate, beehive bank and other things. This award shows that Euan has proven to “bee” a good citizen, cooperative, hard worker, and kind and helpful. He was selected by his teacher to receive this award. I am so very, very proud of you dear Euan! And love you to eternity and beyond xoxox

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

St. Brigid Day- Imbolc

Today is the half way point between winter solstice and spring equinox.  A time for new beginnings. We got hit by a big blizzard today, so you would have thought that would have preoccupied me, but oh no! Lily came over and we honored this lovely time of year in our own fashion…


We put on our aprons and started new beginnings for Lily. She learned to make her own lip balms, and how to write the recipe on a card for her very own recipe box! She had great fun making the recipe her own with the addition of a little essential oils and then  making the labels for the tubes

She also made some lovely paper snowflakes, to honor the blizzard and the day


We then thought maybe we should shake the rugs, vacuum, and get the laundry done. We felt a wee guilty as Papa had been laboring mightily with his shovel and snow blower all day while we were crafting and having fun! lol

Lily took a picture of me in my favorite apron my dear sweet friend Rita gifted me


And the white pine, all dressed in white, watched over us through the window…


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Tree Year – White Pine

Not long ago, Kristine, of Herbal Roots Zine and Dancing in a Field of Tansy, suggested we might want to choose a tree as our herbal ally. In December, Kristine had came up with the Herbal Ally Challenge, and I just didn’t get started with it for one reason or another. I then saw Lucinda, of Whispering Earth talking about participating with The Tree Year blog , and that it was the International Year of the Forest, I got thinking about which tree I might choose. While Eric and I were in Urbana, and visiting our friends Jackie and Brad, Jackie gifted me with a lovely watercolor of a white pine and I knew she was the tree I would choose.


When I saw Kristine’s post about maybe choosing a tree as our ally, I knew I wanted to get going and start posting about the white pine as my ally and  I want to participate in her herbal ally challenge and in the year of the tree. It will also be my tribute to this particular tree, as it is my constant companion. It grows on the south side of my house, and her branches peak in through my bedroom and living room windows. Her she is today, while the blizzard was blowing all around us


This particular white pine, is one that my husbands daughter Tonya, brought home from school one Arbor Day, years ago. Unfortunately it is planted way too close to the house. When I met my husband 10 years ago, I suggested to him, that maybe he should take it down and plant a new tree further from the house. It was tearing up the shingles on the roof then. He just cut the branches on that side, and reroofed and the tree has kept growing why he yearly procrastinated on its destiny. Now, its roots are actually starting to become a danger to the integrity of our basement wall, so soon, very soon, he will have to deal with this. Knowing my husband, I have at least another year, so I will document a year of my getting to know white pine, even more intimately than I do. I look forward to this. I already feel as if I sleep in her embrace.

I mentioned we were in the middle of a blizzard. When I got home today I went outside to clear paths to the beehives so I could poke a stick in their little entrance way to keep the air flow in to the hives.


I then came into the nice snug house to do a simple project I have just never done before. Making homemade lip balms:) I have made lip balm before, and just put it in little containers to use, but had never purchased the actually lip balm containers before! lol I asked my husband to drill out some holes in a piece of wood so the containers would stand nicely while I poured the balm in. It worked out real well. Now anyone in my little village who wants a lip balm will not have to buy one:) I just made a simple balm out of 1/4 cup pure virgin olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of wax, 4 drops of peppermint essential oil and 8 drops of orange EO. You of course would not have to add the essential oils at all and this would still be a nice lip balm:) The little containers are super cheap too and much neater than the little tins I was using, especially for children:)


I need to play around with the labels more, but they don’t have to be fancy anyway as I am not selling them.

For those of you who haven’t been following my blog for very long, I have written a little bit about white pine before here.

Big herbal hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx