My Ladder to Success!

Ladders are used every day and have been for thousands of years!

A painting of men on a ladder was found in a Spanish cave that is believed to be 10,000 years old. The men were collecting honey from a bee’s nest. Ancient ladders were made from vines and later rope. As you can see, mine is an old wooden one, but it allows me to paint and decorate outside for Christmas. (It’s become a little wobbly and should be replaced.)

A smart young man named John Balsley decided to put hinges on a ladder so it would fold in 1862. He lived in Dayton, Ohio. (He was a Buckeye but not a nut!) Today people talk about climbing the corporate ladder which Balsley would not have understood, but he would have known the Bible story of Jacob’s Ladder.

I now know why walking under a ladder is believed to be bad luck. In medieval times, it was believed a person would upset the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) if he/she entered the triangle that had been created by the ladder leaning against a wall. This was the same belief the Egyptians had about the sacred symbol of the godly triangle. Another belief was since ladders were used to hang a person on the gallows, the triangle formed by the leaning ladder would trap the ghost of the person who had been hanged. No one wanted to encounter a ghost or offend God!

When students would say, “I don’t know what to write about,” I would suggest researching an ordinary object. Not many took me up on the suggestion, but see how interesting an ordinary ladder is?

Beautiful Witches’ Balls!

Witches’ balls are objects of art and they are protectors.

I have five witches’ balls hanging in the corner of my family room. So, I guess it’s the safest place in the house, since they protect us from evil spirits. I think of them as beautiful pieces of art.

During the 1600’s and 1700’s they were very popular in England and in New England. Witches were well known to cast spells on people and this provided protection. But if witches were evil, why did people go to them for readings? The glass balls were used to tell fortunes too.

The more practical use of these balls was to hold fishing nets. Since the witches balls floated in the sea, it was decided that a woman who floated must be a witch. This was one of the tests given accused witches. She was then hanged or burned to death.

Fear of witches and evil spirits were common, so witches balls were needed. Remember that people wore masks on All Hallows Eve to protect them from evil spirits. We are wearing masks today to protect us from the coronavirus. Maybe witches balls would work on that too?

Batty About Bats!

These little mosquito eaters are welcome to my yard!

Every night at dusk two brown bats come to my back yard for dinner. Bats can eat 1200 insects an hour. My neighbor has a small pond, so I think that is why Bart and Bertha come to dine. Sometimes Sylvester joins them for dinner. Yes, I named the bats. Since they come every night, they deserved to be named.

I’ve learned a lot about bats. Their excrement is called guano and is a great fertilizer. Since it is high in potassium nitrate (salt peter) it was used for gun powder during the Civil War and was used up to WWI. One hundred pounds of guano was needed to make four pounds of salt peter.

Bats are important to over 500 plant species. They pollinate plants and bananas, mangoes, guava and agave depend on them. The tube-lipped bat that bananas rely on have extremely long tongues in order to reach the nectar. Their tongues are one and half times the length of the bat’s body. Amazing!

When Halloween arrives, I will hang my black bats with a lot more appreciation for them. I learned a lot about these furry, flying mammals. Perhaps Bertha and Bart should star in an educational story for children.

Tear Down Statues of Jesus and Mary?

People need to examine history carefully.

A black activist made news saying statues of white Jesus and Mary must come down because they represent white supremacy. It reminded me of the houses of worship being destroyed in Russia and priests being arrested when the Communists took over. Then there was Hitler who hung the Nazi flag in all the churches and arrested all pastors and priests who opposed him. I ask, is this the transformation of America? Do Christians have an evil history that requires our church to be destroyed?

No one can deny that members of the Christian faith used the Bible to support slavery. God has been used as an excuse to do terrible things throughout history. But why not examine the reason slavery ended in America? Christian abolitionists along with members of the Jewish faith ran the underground railroad and freed an estimated 100,000 slaves. They spoke out against slavery, wrote against slavery and campaigned against it. These people were beaten, arrested, and killed for their beliefs and using their first amendment right called freedom of speech.

Christians opposed the expansion of slave states and worked tirelessly to educate people on the evils of slavery. I believe without their relentless push to end slavery the practice of slavery would have continued. Maybe the Civil War would not have even been fought without these faithful people.

Instead of condemning white Christians and telling us we represent white supremacy, why not celebrate the Christians who fought for Civil Rights in America? I choose to look at the shining examples of my faith who worked to end slavery and also walked with Reverend King to change racists laws. As Doctor King said in his I Have a Dream Speech, he wanted his children to live in a nation where people were judged by the content of their character. When examining history, I hope people will not omit the contributions of Christians in the fight for equality.

First Mother’s Day held in 1908!

A daughter’s tribute became a national observance.

Anna Jarvis felt that mothers should have one day where they were honored. She felt passionate about this after watching her mother serve others. Her mother, Ann, was a pacifist who cared for both Confederate and Yankee soldiers during the war. After that she created mother’s clubs to address public health issues. She sounds like a remarkable woman who must have been an inspiration to many. The states observed Mother’s Day before it became a national holiday as a result of Anna Jarvis’s efforts. West Virginia was the first, and is proud to have the International Mother’s Day Shrine. I never knew there was such a thing! In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it an official holiday. Congress had rejected the idea in 1908.

I have many memories of Mother’s Day with my mother and grandmother. Now I’m a mother and grandmother! My mother drove me crazy at times, and I’m sure I have done the same to my children, but isn’t that part of the fun? I always said I wasn’t going to be like my mother, but of course I found myself doing many things and saying things that she did. I guess it can’t be helped.

Hallmark got into the holiday by 1920 and it made Anna Jarvis angry. She said it wasn’t a holiday for companies to make money and she protested against candy and card makers. Really? I for one love to receive cards and chocolate. My favorite gift is flowers as my family knows.

I hope all you mothers are enjoying your day and are hearing from your children. Anna Jarvis never married nor had children. If she did, I wonder if she would have appreciated a Mother’s Day card. She died in 1948.

Lungwort, not just a pretty plant!

Lung shaped leaves?

I don’t see it, but apparently people in the Middle Ages thought lungwort leaves looked like a lung. Under the Doctrine of Signatures, medicinal uses of plants were determined by their appearances. What is interesting is that Native Americans did the same thing and they were on a different continent!

I have enjoyed lungwort in my garden for years. It likes shade and has a long blooming time. I suspected the name meant it was used in the past to treat lung problems. I was surprised to learn it is still used. One can buy 4 ounces of lungwort extract for $35.00 to treat a variety of ailments.

The extract is used in tea to treat not only lung problems but diarrhea and hemorrhoids. I think hemorrhoid suffers would prefer using a cream. Poultices can also be made from the plant to treat burns, reduce swelling, and to treat an enlarged thyroid. Talk about being versatile!

I love my plants and a perfect day includes working outside. I find herbal medicine fascinating, and I know many women were accused of witchcraft for using these amazing concoctions. For me, I just want to enjoy their beauty.

Hippity Hop!

The Easter Bunny Keeps on Hopping!

The egg delivering Easter bunny has been active in the United States since the 1700s. It is believed that German immigrants brought the tradition with them. They called the bunny Osterhase. Children made little nests for the rabbit to lay colored eggs in. It sounds a little crazy, but we have carried on the tradition for centuries. Of course the tradition evolved to Easter baskets and of course egg hunts. My personal favorite is the egg hunt.

I found it interesting that there are other animals that bring eggs besides the bunny. In Switzerland it is the cuckoo. That makes more sense than a rabbit. I also read about an Easter witch in Switzerland who brought chocolate to the children. Witches are scary, but if they bring chocolate they must be okay!

Easter is the most important religious holiday for Christians. Without Jesus’s resurrection, the religion most likely would not have formed. The Easter lily represents that Jesus has risen. It is one of the fragrant spring flowers that bring us reassurance that the winter has ended. Jesus assured us that another kind of darkness had ended. May all of you find joy in Easter wherever you are today, because Jesus is always with us!

Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday?

Last Day to Feast!

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of forty days of fasting for Christians and perhaps for those who want to end a bad habit. The forty days is because Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness praying.

For many it is Mardi Gras which is the French term for Fat Tuesday. It is also Shrove Tuesday. It was customary for early Christians to ask to be forgiven of their sins or shriven on this day. The Pancake Bell would ring, people would confess their sins and then make pancakes in order to use up all the rich ingredients. During lent, people were not to eat eggs, milk, butter, or meat. People around the world will eat pancakes today in keeping with this custom.

It makes me wonder what people did with the eggs they gathered and the milk that the cows produced during that time. Cows have to be milked twice a day, so they probably made butter and cheese and ate it on Sundays along with eggs. Sundays were exempt from fasting because they were (and still are) considered days of joy in celebration of Jesus’s resurrection.

I always give up sweets and seldom make it the forty days. I have chocolate chip cookies to eat tonight! I plan to make it this year. (I always plan to make it!) I will give up the unhealthy sweets and add more prayer time. A time to grow spiritually is the benefit of lent. Hope you all find a benefit in this lenten season.

Witch Hazel Blooms First!

Witch Hazel has Angelic Qualities!

Seeing blossoms in February is a treat, and that is what our witch hazel tree provides. If you have one, prune after it blossoms and before the leaves come out. (Little gardening advice!)

I grew up with my mom and grandmother both using witch hazel on insect bites. It burned less than alcohol and it worked as well. Until I researched witch hazel, I didn’t know it came in a bar and is recommended to help with poison ivy itching and burning. It is also used to treat acne.

Native Americans boiled the bark and used it to treat a variety of skin irritations. The colonists learned how to use herbs, bark and roots from the natives in making teas to treat many ailments.. My grandmother talked about making poultices from onions and other natural ingredients in treating pneumonia. She wanted my mother to make one for me, but my mother used Vicks instead. If you read the Vicks ingredients you’ll see eucalyptus oil is listed along with other natural ingredients.

I have a bottle of witch hazel in my cupboard and still use it on insect bites. I read some of the things people use it for and was surprised. One person claims it removed the dark circles under her eyes and another said it lightened the dark spots on her hands and face. It can also be used on hemorrhoids if you’re interested. Amazing stuff!

When our witch hazel blooms, I know it won’t be too long until spring. For you gardeners, you can now sow grass seed until mid-March. The freezing and thawing of the soil works the seed into the soil until it germinates. Apparently it works, so I’m trying it this year. I’ll let you know the results!

Valentine Trees Speak Volumes!

A new idea with lots of potential!

Tired of the flowers, candy, dinner out routine? How about a tree? Of course mine isn’t finished yet. I still have a couple days. My idea is to tape little messages on the ornaments. I read that many of the first valentines were puzzles. They were handmade and the creator probably spent hours thinking on it. I could put clues on the ornaments that leads to a hidden gift. That might be fun. Again, I have a couple days to decide.

The first commercial valentines were made in England in the late 1700s. They were printed or engraved and then colored by hand. In the mid 1800s Esther Howland started a valentine making venture in the top floor of her father’s Massachusetts home. She and her friends made intricate three dimensional valentines and sold them for $5.00 each. They made a nice profit of $100,000 in a single year! They are credited with making the first commercial American valentines.

I like Valentine’s Day because it is a day of love. One doesn’t have to have a sweetheart. I love my family, my friends, nature, good food, my kitties, I could go on. It’s a day to take stock of all the things I love. Of course a little chocolate will make the day extra special and perhaps another house plant would brighten my day. Just a suggestion to my sweetheart.