A Shivery November 13…Blustery and Snow

We’re on the edge of getting some snow headed our way, but in the meantime, Michigan weather cannot decide exactly what it wants to do. While on my daily constitutional, the weather flipped from frigid and blustery (but no snow) to sunny and bright with no wind, to finally blustery and snow.  It has kept this up all day…wind-clouds/sun/no wind/snow-wind.

However, when the sun does shine on the woodland path, it was quite magically beautiful, with a pinkish-tan layer of fallen leaves carpeting the ground, with squirrels scampering madly around trying to get the last few Acorns for addition to their nest or to bury (because Of Course it will remember where all of the 100s of nuts it buried are, right?) In any event, the first 1/2 mile was brutal but things started perking along a little after that.

I’m almost done with my November homework for my Herbal Studies Class. No real rest for the wicked as all that does is give me a bit more space to work on December (and I believe I will need it, what with 2 holidays landing in there).

The Vanilla bitters are coming along wonderfully, and the Cherry bitters smell so good. I can’t wait till Thanksgiving (can I hold out that long…maybe?) I need to  bottle some up but still waiting on Amazon to get it in gear and get me my new Kindle and the glassware I ordered.

Almost time to head out for Master Gardener class – we’re getting one of those pale winter sunsets that Michigan is so memorable for – pale pink at the horizon and soft blue deepening into a rich, well, in this case, a stark sterling gray cloud cover. Oh well.

November 11, cloudy, cold and RAIN! ARGH!

My walk today was truncated courtesy of the very inclement weather. Of course once I got out there it was fine but I was decidedly happy to turn back and head into the warm house.

Then off to ferry Miss Daisy to Jo-Ann’s, where I followed her around and wished I’d remembered a book before I purchased some complementing yarn to make a combination hoodie/cowl for the forthcoming winter months. We ended up on the Aisle of Heinous Synthetic Candle Smells – which is as bad as it sounds. Every synthetic ‘aroma’ in the book. I absolutely cannot stand, abhor, despise most of the ‘white’ scents like Jasmine, Gardenia, and so on. In the synthetic version they are, if possible, worse. My sister says she can’t stand the ‘smell of vanilla’, but I think she has smelled enough real vanilla to know that the difference between real vanilla and the fake crap is worlds apart. I have some 8x Vanilla extract and some Vanilla bitters currently macerating and I think I’ll show her the difference at Thanksgiving.

The temperature was dropping by the time we came out so I think snow soon. The Oaks and Norway Maples were all tossing their leaves off with mad abandon in the wind so Autumn is definitely in its middle period. Ground is still soft, though, so any snow we get won’t stick.

Saturday Starting Out

42 and windy – cold, and gray. Typical November weather in Michigan, in other words.

I love looking at the bones of the land at this season. You can see where the water sources run and the full extent of the trees or where the wetlands begin. Our wetlands are completely sere and shades of tan and gold. Most of the wild grasses have been blown over by the grass, disguising the deer trails.

The bittersweet nightshade’s (Solanum dulcamara) berries are really lush and very visible in this landscape, glowing red and looking so lush and tasty. This Eurasia native was introduced to the US and quickly became a weed, so that it is quite common to see along roadways and paths.  The characteristic dark purple bloom and small oval, translucent red fruit are characteristic of this solanaceous plant and differentiate them from our native annual nightshade, that has white flowers and blue-black fruit.  All parts of the plant are moderately to extremely toxic, and that leads me to an interesting ethnobotany supposition.

When tomatoes (also a solanaceous species) were first brought to Europe, they were regarded as an ornamental plant, and people didn’t dare to eat them. The tomato species likely to have been imported to Europe would have been wild, un-improved species with small berry-like fruit and typical star-shaped yellow or white flowers, very similar to the flowers and fruit of the bittersweet and deadly nightshades, which were known toxins.  It makes sense that people in the Old World would think that the edible tomato would have toxic fruit like the nightshades: same family, similar flowers, similar fruit. I don’t recall ever reading anything about why tomatoes weren’t immediately clasped to the cooks’ bosoms and hailed as wonderful new addition to their repertory, but this certainly makes sense to me that they look too much alike.

Nightshades are used for herbal medicines, because they contain many active pharmaceuticals. But avoid eating this plant as it contains solanine, the same toxin found in green potatoes and other members of the nightshade family, as well as a glycoside called dulcamarine.