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So this month’s Blog Party asks: “Now That It’s Spring, What Do You DO?” There’s a simple answer to THAT one, GO HUNTING!!! (no, no, not THAT kind of hunting…) Camera, Clippers and the promise to Come Back hunting.

Somewhere ‘round about my birth, I suspect I put in a request to discover a new plant every year that I’ve NEVER met before. Maybe that’s why I left the East Coast after 54 years of fun, I was runnin’ out of plants!

And I don’t have to GO very far, as I live on an interesting 10 acre piece of property owned by my extended family which is, bit by bit, being reclaimed from the marauding blackberries intent on conquering all of Oregon. But it’s OREGON, folks. Even our marauding beastplants serve snacks and harbor birds. Quail even!

THAT was a good one. I was on one of my Alice in Wanderland walks, checking the Nettle patch to see how far it would be spreading THIS year, when I hung a left into what might have once been a fenced-in area near the edge of the woods perhaps for some livestock. How oddly the vegetation changed, from grass and thistles to a carpet of vinca major to nothing but hefty clumps of Lemon Balm and emerging Cow Parsnips. I took the fateful step and set off a small thunder of wings which made me instinctively DUCK. What the….. I looked up into the lowest branches of the DougFir and couldn’t QUITE figure out what I was looking at. Hearty-sized birds these were, like small chickens, looking pretty awkward in the branches as though they don’t DO this much. Interesting feathers.

And then one turned in silhouette. Oh look at that. A little WhoopDeeDoo on its forehead. I’m sure there’s some official name for it but I have an Aversion to Specifics, so I don’t need to know, but definitely QUAIL. These be BIG quail! I took a few steps closer, setting off the rest of them that had been holding their breath and hoping not to inhale their own WhoopDeeDoos and they all thundered into the trees and other blackberry banks. WHAT a racket!! Very cool. I apologized and will know to tread VERY gently if I visit that part of the property again.

Oh, and btw, they’re California Quail. I may not need to know what college you went to, but I like to know your NAME.

California Quail skirting the blackberries

 Down the paths I go, past the goldenrod neighborhood I discovered two years ago. Early-bloomer, this, missed the best harvest the first year. Note to self: get back down here in June. Another path takes me through the Grove of Hawthorns. When someone asked me for Hawthorn BARK awhile back, I actually came down here with my long-reaching pruners to selectively gather some branches and since I had them, I cleared more marauding blackberries from around the trees hearing little whispers of “Oh THANK you, dear, we were SO hoping someone would gets these thugs out of our branches.”

But the BEST discovery was LAST Spring. I always do best if I just go out for a WANDER, not specifically LOOKING for anything. I was actually way up at the top of the dirtroad driveway when I noticed a deerpath I hadn’t seen before. I often wonder why I don’t run head-first into trees when I’m out walking, I’m always scanning the ground for plants. This was fir forest, branches strewn all over from years of StormPruning. I’m watching where I step, when I see the TINIEST glint of PINK?? I step carefully, I look down. Hmm, it’s a flower. I peer closer. Hmmm INTERESTING flower. But TINY, so I crouch and pull out my camera. Oh good night. It’s a faerie-sized ORCHID. Because I’ve not yet trained my auto-focus camera to focus where I WANT it to, I put my hand behind this miniscule jewel in order to force-focus the camera and wound up with one of my favorite shots, giving you the SIZE of this wee being.

Calypso bulbosa

Now here comes the cool part. This tiny treasure was the ONLY ONE on this side of the driveway, and it’s microscopic ‘pssst! over here!’ caught my attention and my lens. A few days later, I discovered dozens and dozens of them on the UPPER side of the drive. Probably always been there on the floor of the woods, – none of us had noticed.

In a previous blogparty post I’ve already gone into Weed Pesto, one of my favorite Rites of Spring (and summer) but early Spring is also VioletTime. I have a clump of lovely YELLOW violets (odd oxymoron) in my shade garden,

 and a nice carpet of PINK violets (again) spreading nicely in the back of the front garden,

PINK violets

 but I’ve not seen carpets of regular VIOLET violets around here much. Enter THIS Spring. For no particular reason, I go a different way ON my way to do who knows what, when yet again, there’s a flash of COLOR in the tall, coarse, field grass. Hello violets! Once you see one, all the others light up. They’re all OVER the place! In I go for the smallest jar I can find. I haven’t made violet BLOSSOM tincture in YEARS. THIS is magic of the highest order.

First off, violet blossoms aren’t even true seed-producing flowers. They’re party costumes, so gather away, the clump will go on when the later, invisible, drab true flowers open to no fanfare, ripen their seeds and drop them quietly to the ground. I’m gathering costumes. When they begin to pile up in the jar, they always remind me of ballet costumes. It’s ASTONISHING how many will fit in a small jar. Even without crushing them, you can seemingly always tuck in dozens more.

gathering violet blossoms

 I INHALED as I went, remembering someone noting what I found to be true, you can INHALE all the scent. Next whiff is lighter, next is non-existent. For now. I know my jar is not FULL full, although it looks it. I’ve been doing this for enough years to know. I bring the jar inside, and pour the vodka onto the flowers whereupon they collapse to about half their volume. I’ll add more tomorrow, but for now, let the MAGIC begin. Over the next hour, the clear liquid turns amethyst. By tomorrow, the liquid returns to clear as do the flowers. Where did the amethyst go? Hmmmmmm. As I added more flowers and more vodka, that new layer would do the same thing. Amethyst liquid and then clear again. Magic.

 So how would one ally with VioletMagic? (notice I didn’t say “What do we UUUUUSE this FOR?” how rude!) You’ll see simplistic things like Violet Blossom Tincture FOR restoring happiness and all that, but I think it’s WAY more complex than that.

When I apprenticed with Susun Weed back in ’93, Violet was my chosen ally plant. This apprenticeship was VERY early in the year, started out in early March learning more about SNOW and firewood than wild plants, and we were up near Woodstock, NY. When it came time for me to do my presentation for the other apprentices, I merrily introduced them to the heart-shaped leaves of wild woodland ASTERS until Susun stopped me to gently point out my mis-identificaton (cue trombone) BUT, let me tell you, I never confused the two plants EVER again! Violet LEAVES emerge curled inwards from both sides in upon themselves – a signature, Susun points out, for how protective of breast tissue the leaves are.

The ROOTS of the sweet, pretty, benign Violet work like Ipecac.
And no, I didn’t find THAT out the hard way.

But the flowers – flowers that aren’t really flowers….hmmmm. What I read about them was pretty nebulous, so THIS I decided to work on for myself. That was a year, after my apprenticeship, when I was doing a lot of public speaking. Classes, garden clubs, libraries. I would take some Violet blossom tincture before I left for each talk and the most interesting things would happen. I’d leave the directions at home and somehow get to where I was going by pure radar. I’d bring my notes and never once glance at them. I would change the whole focus of my talk depending on where this particular group wanted to go, but I also found the questions, particularly AFTER the talk, to be beyond exhausting, as everyone started asking ME questions they hadn’t gotten any real answers to from their doctors.

A close friend chose to take a whole dropperful of my Violet flower tincture, hoping for its UPLIFTING qualities, when she was severely depressed. She became even MORE severely depressed. Again I say Hmmmmm.

In a decided attempt to avoid drawing ThereforeLines, I suspect, I perceive, I feel, it seems…..that Violet blossom tincture may well guide one INTO whatever one happens to be INTO.

Who knows, it may well have been a stand of violets that drew Alice to the RabbitHole………………………….

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November 09