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
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.