Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Wild Wanderings Blog – August 2, 2012
Summer is a time for family picnics and various outdoor adventures and pursuits. Not much can rival cooling off in a cold mountain stream or lake on a hot, muggy Summer day. Camping is a favorite of many this time of year. Sleeping under the stars is one of the many things I enjoy, though I admit...mosquitos aren't among my favorites. Oh, and did I mention yellow jackets? Yeah, they're pretty high on my list of undesirables as well. And please, don't get me started about chiggers and seed ticks:)) Fortunately, we have very few mosquitos, chiggers and seed ticks here in the Smoky Mountains of western NC.
Aside from the usual annoyances, there is one more that finds a way to pay many of us a visit each year. Yes, I'm speaking of poison ivy. Avoiding it is very difficult, for it seems to be just about everywhere we want to be. Personally, I'm pretty hypersensitive to its presence and avoid it quite easily, but that always hasn't been the case. I've had my share of episodes with this powerful plant. Many people have a severe sensitivity to poison ivy and some are even hospitalized as a result. Fortunately, Nature provides some welcome relief for those "in the know." Jewelweed is an abundant plant capable of neutralizing the oil (urushiol) of poison ivy, if applied within a reasonable time frame. Interestingly, they often grow side by side sharing the same environment. Some people claim that jewelweed helps to heal poison ivy after the rash has already occured, but I haven't found that to be the case. For me it works better when applied immediately after known contact. I simply crush the watery plant with my hands and rub it on my skin wherever I suspect contact. It's truly worked wonders for me. Another great way to utilize this plant is to crush up several plants and soak them in a small tub of water. This can serve as a convenient washing station at any Summertime family gathering. Some folks I know will even freeze this water, in ice cube trays, to have on hand at a moments notice.
If you've ever gotten a bad case of it, (which I have) then you know the power that this plant holds. On more than one occasion I've asked the questions... "What possible use could poison ivy have?" or "What was the Creator thinking?" Several years ago a plant walk, with a well known Herbalist named David Winston, changed all that. He told me that the Cherokee believe that plants belong and grow in tribes. For instance, dandelion is often found with plantain, chicory and clover. Plants like black cohosh, mayapple, ginseng and goldenseal often grow together as well. Along with these tribes, he said there is also a warror tribe and poison ivy was the chief of that tribe here in the Smokies. It grows quickly and thickly in disturbed soils. Places, in essence, that have been knocked out of balance or disrespected. He said it protects those areas and helps them rejuvenate by simply keeping us out. He said the Cherokee had great respect for this warrior and would greet it whenever they encountered it. Quite simply...they understood and respected its purpose.
That lesson has stuck with me ever since. David's story shifted not just the way I think about poison ivy, but more importantly, the way I "feel" about it. I look at it entirely differently now. I've shared that story about poison ivy for over fifteen years and a funny thing has happened..."I don't get it anymore." Now I admit, I've gotten a few little dots from time to time, but never a bad episode since. I like to believe it's a result of my changed energy toward it. Obviously, I can't prove that, but I don't really need to. Native peoples all have stories about communicating with plants and the connectiveness of all things. Quite simply, for me it's a choice. I choose to believe in such beautiful possibilities. I hope you do too...
As always, I welcome your thoughts and input. Please consider joining a group I started called “Traditional / Primitive Living Skills” and I do encourage you to ask questions and contribute.
Richard Cleveland lives in Asheville, NC. He is the founder and director of Earth School. A self-trained Naturalist, fishing and nature guide, he has taught traditional native skills to thousands of people, of all ages. For info about his programs visit www.LoveTheEarth.com
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