<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> RowanTree -- An Introduction

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My inital interest in herbs was as a gardener and a conservationist. It delighted me that I could grow something that was enjoyable as a visual treat and/or a pleasant scent AND was also useful for maintaining the health and well-being of my family.

As time went on and the vagaries of employment and the economic cycle imposed hardships on the large extended group we had become, the herbs represented a way to extend our care inexpensively. During a time when we, as a family, were financially constrained (how's that for a euphemism for broke'?), this was a way to have at least a First Aid kit available when we needed it.

This now is being written 2 years after 9/11 as the US is ending the active hostilities in Iraq. North Korea is testing missiles and restarting nuclear plants while our government is planning to deploy an untested missile defense system on the West Coast where I live. We've been instructed to prepare a disaster kit.

Since this is earthquake country, we've been prepared since the Loma Prieta quake. Every bed in this house has a flashlight under the mattress. We have battery-driven lights in our hallways and stairwells. Our big furniture is bolted to the walls. We have earthquake alarms on all load-bearing walls. We have three 55-gallon drums filled with water in the backyard. The Earthquake Kit has canned goods, briquettes, sprouting kits and seeds, hand-cranked radio, solar shower, 50-hour candles, chemical toilet, tent, etc., etc. We have always looked at the herb plantings as an extension of this kit. We have been told repeatedly that we must plan to be on our own for at least 3 days in the event of a major quake event.

I can't think that this would be any different for any other type of emergency. If we're nuked, sprayed or otherwise contaminated, all bets are off. I don't know how to plan for that. What I can try to plan for is isolation, slowdowns in deliveries of needed goods, unavailability or scarity of medical care, interruptions of services. No one knows what will happen next.

Another thing that is happening simultaneously is the increase in health care costs experienced at the same time as the contraction and/or elimination of services rendered to those of us who need medical care. I don't even want to contemplate the sky-rocketing costs of drugs. Currently some of us still have health insurance coverage but as prices go up and our income goes down, I don't know how much longer that situation will hold. Our government representatives don't seem inclined to do much about this so again, we don't know what will happen.

I'm certainly not saying that having an herb garden or access to herbs is (you should excuse the pun) a cure-all. It is not. But it does give one a certain sense of control, even if only over a small area of our lives. If anything, I think it's the knowledge of the herbs that gives me a sense of power and control.

I'd like to share something with you that simply amazed me at the time. I'm not sure exactly when it happened but I remember one day several years ago when my husband and I were traveling down a local highway near the edge of the bay, lush fields of weeds on either side. He was driving and I was doing that looking-out-the-window-without- conscious-purpose-zoning-thing when I suddenly realized that I was no longer seeing fields full of weeds, I was seeing a pharmacy! At some point, I had learned enough about plant identification that I had begun unconsciously cataloging useful plants and their locations. After that, it became almost an obsession. I began walking around the area where I lived. I watched plants come up, ripen and die. The next year, there would be the children of that plant. Even though I live in a crowded metropolitan area, medicinal plants abound.

There are herbs I can't grow here due to weather/temperature, space or location requirements. Those I buy. Even those I grow can't do much if I need large amounts of them and I have one specimen growing in a pot. I buy extra. Some die back in certain seasons, so I don't have them year-round. If I can't preserve enough, I buy them.

Having the herbs does no good if a.) you don't know when to use them or b) you don't know how to prepare them. This is the kind of information that I want to provide here.

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