Those trying in vain to keep a house clean detest house dust. It floats in sunbeams and accumulates on furniture. Most assume the dust comes from outside, and about 60% of it does in the form of dirt or pollen, but much of it is generated inside the home. If you look at floater house dust under a microscope, it appears to be small flat plates, usually six sided and slightly wrinkled on the surface. It’s is mostly skin cells from us or from pets. We shed them constantly in fantastic amounts, and it’s the body’s way of keeping itself clean and free from invading pathogens.
As a botany nut I’m always amazed at the diversity of plants we have in the mountains, as I’m constantly coming across plants I don’t know. One I’ve observed for a number of years but only recently caught it in bloom to identify it is Spikenard, which is mentioned in the Bible several times. The most familiar one is its use to anoint the head and feet of Jesus just prior to His crucifixion.
Our area’s high plant diversity makes getting outside an adventure, with every trail or country road having something interesting to see, feel or smell. If you’d like to add taste to some of your outings, there are several common plants that provide a variety of flavors to enjoy as a beverage. Here is a rundown of some that I have tried and enjoy. Be sure of correct identification before consuming any wild food and try only a small amount in case of food allergies.
When I ask kids why trees are important their number one answer is that they produce oxygen. Plant leaves are solar collectors that take sun energy to produce food through the miracle of photosynthesis, a complex chemical process where carbon dioxide and water are converted to a glucose sugar. This sugar is used for food energy or converted to a starch called cellulose for building the plant body (stem, limbs, etc.). In trees we call this wood, something we use a lot of.
Being old has its disadvantages, but something I’m glad it allowed me to witness (at age 15) was the first moon landing and walk that occurred 50 years ago this month. It was one of those moments you remember exactly. In my case it was at my boyhood home in Middlesboro, Kentucky at 10:30 on a Sunday night. Me and my dad (mom was out of town) sat there watching a small black and white television totally mesmerized as these two guys walking around on another world. I remember lots of goosebumps and feeling so happy (I was a bona fide science geek by then).
In an earlier column I wrote about our version of English I like to call Mountain Speech, a unique and very old dialect that has been retained through mountain isolation to this day, though much has been lost. I’m going through a book called Smokey Mountain English that has thousands of words and phrases collected from mountain people throughout our region by linguistic experts. I’m going through the book looking for words I heard my parents and grandparents use and thought you might enjoy seeing how many you’re familiar with.
When holidays roll around, I like to poke around for a connection with the natural world, and I found some interesting stuff about The Declaration of Independence. This most revered American document kicked off our nation’s quest to rule itself, which we celebrate on the 4th of July, Independence Day.
Thousands of years before modern medicine, people depended on medicinal plants to ease pain and aid healing. Our early pioneer ancestors learned from native Indians what plants were useful to treat maladies. Many of these plants are common in our area and easy to identify. What follows is a description of some of the more easy to find medicinals found in our area.
I like to write articles that are upbeat and positive, but this one is a total bummer. As a forester and lover of the outdoors, I’m in the woods way more than the average citizen, and over the decades have had my share of ticks. But this past year is beyond anything I’ve experienced before, finding them on me every month, including the dead of winter. Some were so small that I would miss them and let them get embedded, which is particularly worrisome with all the tick-borne diseases out there now. So this time I’m writing words of warning.
If you paid attention in health class you know that our body needs to move materials around to function properly, such as oxygen. The transportation system is the bloodstream, which utilizes red blood cells as a bucket brigade, going to the lungs via veins to pick up oxygen, and carrying it to various body locations via arteries. A tree has similar needs and uses a liquid transportation system.
If you drive down the road right now and see patches of blue in the green hayfields and pastures, it’s liable to be Lyre-leaf Sage. I have a lot of it in my fields for the first time that I can remember, as does my neighbors. It’s always been around, but I normally only see it along roadsides and field edges. It is in the same family of plants as the herbal sage used in cooking and such.
Earth Day was April 22nd and it continues to be an annual reminder that we humans impact the planet’s resources in negative ways. And since our population continues to grow and most resources are finite, it would behoove us to save some for the grandkids on down the road. Doing so includes a personal reward of conserving both resources and money. Here are some ways to do it.
Faucet Fix: Many modern faucets include aerators, which simply add bubbles to the water to increase its volume. If you have old ones, aerators can be added so you use 50% less water.
Since I’m in the woods a lot it’s reasonable to assume that I would have more ticks get on board and use me as a meal. But for the first time that I can remember I pulled ticks off every month of the year, including the winter months when they are normally dormant. That’s not right people! All of them have been the smaller deer tick, which are harder to see and feel crawling around. Now that your family is outside more with the warmer weather, best start body checking yourself and the kids. Since it’s good to know your enemy, here is a rundown on the tick lifestyle.