Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The myth of the black thumb

(Note: This was actually written in the spring but it got put off. It's still applicable, though)

I just spent a few hours in my sister's greenhouse. She's still got some tomatoes that she hasn't put out.

The interesting thing there is that the tomatoes were all planted at the same time and in the same way. From the same packages even. But her tomatoes are about three inches tall (or less) and mine are a foot tall and some have blossoms already. Well to be honest, it's the climbing tomato that has blossoms. It's a slow grower so I started it in January--it had better be further along than the others!

I'm not sure what the difference is. Maybe soil, maybe sun. Or that black thumb she keeps complaining about.

Although I'm not certain I really believe in a black thumb. My thumb's black every time I stick it in the dirt.

That was a joke, by the way.

Some people are said to be able to make anything grow, but in reality that's not the case. Some people are just lucky enough to find the group of plants that their particular brand of neglect works for.

Personally I'm in the mid-range. I kill anything that needs a lot of water and care (such as orchids or bamboo) and anything that needs very little water (such as cacti). Oh, and anything that needs to be fertilized regularly. If it can stand being watered once a week and ignored the rest of the time, it grows. I think some people do better with orchids and bamboo because they have the urge to water too much, and others do better with cacti because they forget to water at all.

Then there's the last group, who can't decide. I think this is the group that complains the worst about the black thumb because they'll water every day for a while, then stop, then realize they haven't watered for a month and try to compensate by over-watering and over-fertilizing. Then the watering tapers off (although oh, I forgot, I'll sprinkle some fertilizer, but then forget to water it in) so the plants go through this helpless neglect cycle of drought and plenty and the plants get confused.

There are plants out there that can survive this way, but they're generally not the tropical or semi-tropical greens that we surround ourselves with as indoor plants.

As far as landscape plants, I believe in casual neglect. I plant a lot of different things, and whatever survives I buy more of. Or divide and spread, but again that's a different topic.

I love perenials. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012


Zingiber Officinale
Family: Zingiberaceae

Ginger is an interesting herb. For the most part it sits in cupboards and people pass right over it. It's just "there," and has no particular use unless you're making gingerbread.

On the other hand, ginger is pretty much considered a panacea, or a cure-all. I won't go into everything it's claimed to do (plus the kitchen sink!), but its general properties seem to be:

As an anti-spasmodic and an intestinal anti-biotic
Used for intestinal worms and other parasites.
General tonic for the reproductive system and the digestive system.

I've used ginger with turmeric as a tea for stomach upset, but be very careful about drug interactions on this one! Because ginger has so MANY chemical compounds, it will react on some level with a lot of pharmaceuticals.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the Kitchen: The Perfect Food :)

Even when I'm not paying attention (which is usually) I still have to cook. Or rather, I have to eat, which is the end result of cooking.

All of the following are stimulating cullinary herbs. They have a lot of other properties as well (for example, most of them are anti-bacterial or anti-fungal) and together with tomatoes they make spaghetti sauce. Meat optional.

Marjoram or Oregano

Dice and cook 1 large onion and dice or crush garlic (cook it with the meat if you prefer meat, or add a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of milk for the same taste without the meat)
Cut up three large tomatoes. Add them to the onions.
Add tomato juice if you like it runny rather than chunky.
Add seasonings.

Cook down and serve. I like eating it alone, without noodles. Tomato soup! Or wrap it in a tortilla before it has cooked down with fresh basil leaves and mint.

Use in place of chicken soup for colds, eat it with additional basil, rosemary and oregano when you need to be alert. Add more Rosemary if you have a headache and more garlic if you have high blood pressure. If I use it for medicine, I add the extra seasonings last, after everything else has cooked in.

I like to sneak it in as an "herbal" meal for someone who needs help but won't admit it.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Headaches are relatively simple. Most people reach for pain killers. I realized early that I didn't like what happened to me when I took pain killers, so I learned other mechanisms for getting rid of that pain.

I learned a number of strategies, but this is the one I use most often. It goes back to the fact that all nerves in the body lead to the brain.

The headache is probably localized on one side or the other. I have learned that for migraines I'm going to use the hand on the same side as the headache and for regular headaches I'm going to use the opposite hand. If the headache is in the center then either both lobes are involved or the headache is in one of the brain pieces that cross the center (such as the occipital lobe).

Walk your fingers firmly across your hand until you find a spot that crunches slightly under your fingers. It may also be very stiff, like a lump under the skin. At first this is going to feel strange, and may be difficult. You'll eventually get to the point where you can find it more easily. I find it more easily on other people, but I have problems finding it on my own hands.

The correct spot may be tender. The more severe the headache, the more likely that the spot you need to massage is going to be extremely tender, so pay attention to that. If it's too tender, massage the whole hand and gradually move in. The spot may also be on the back of the hand or between the bones, but it takes some practice to be able to find these.

Feet work better, but taking my shoes off in public to get rid of a headache is rather awkward.

There may be spots on both hands, but they'll probably be different. You may think the headache is centered on the left side, and massage the right hand (let's just say for argument that you find your spot under the pad of the thumb), then learn that a smaller headache was brewing on the right side. But when you massage the pad of the thumb on the left hand, there's nothing. You might find the "spot" for that hand on the side of one of the fingers. It varies, but over time you can learn where the headaches are most likely to be centered.

This may work for other sorts of pain too, but if you're dealing with back pain (as an example) you're going to have to use the feet because the nerves of the back aren't on the same nerves with the hands. My use of this technique has been primarily on headaches, so I can't say how useful it is for other things.

Note: It's NOT going to work with physical damage. You can't massage a hand to heal a broken arm, for example. You may be able to help the pain (a little) but nerve damage is going to make it problematic.