May 23

Sugar Violets

This time of year, Violets are prolific! One of my favorite projects is making Sugar Violets for garnishing cakes, and cookies. This is a fun project to do with children, and is a great way to teach about flowers that are edible. Violets are easy to identify, and have a light, green taste that pairs perfectly with a little sweetness. Chances are, you have Violets in your own back yard!

Blue Violets are wonderful for garnishing salads and confections. Always choose flowers that have not been sprayed with chemicals, and are at least 100′ away from the roadside.

Start by collecting as many Violets as you will need. Morning is the best time to gather flowers, this keeps them from wilting too quickly. Take them into the kitchen immediately.

Gather the freshest, cleanest Violets you can find; just the flowers

You will need egg whites, granulated sugar, and a small paintbrush. Personally, I like to use the white from a Duck Egg. However, if you are serving other people, you may want to use Powdered egg whites.

The egg whites and sugar help to dehydrate, and preserve the flowers.

Place a few of the flowers flat on the plate, and gently brush on a light coating of egg whites to the surface of the petals. Then, carefully place the flower into the sugar without allowing the petals to curl.

After painting egg white onto the petals, gently coat with sugar granules.

Remove the flower from the sugar, and place on the plate, making sure the petals are laying flat. Let sit for several hours to over night to set. Once the flowers have set, they’re ready to be added to your culinary creations.

After the flowers have set, they can be added to cupcakes, or cookies for edible decorations!

Stay tuned for more of my Violet, and Edible Flower Recipes!

Aug 06

Stem Dying Queen Anne’s Lace

One of my all time favorite summer traditions is picking and coloring bouquets of Queen Anne’s Lace. It is something I used to do with my grandmother on hot summer days when I was young. We would go for long leisurely walks and ponder the wonders of life and the universe, all along the way cutting the beautiful white flowers from the roadside. When we would return home, we would divide the flowers between several vases, so we could make a variety of colors. I always loved adding and mixing the colors, then waiting to see how they would look. It is a very simple, and easy project, and a great way to spend quality time with young ones.

In late summer, Queen Anne’s Lace blooms along roadsides, and in meadows.

All you will need to create your bouquets are glass jars or vases, scissors, basic liquid food coloring, and pure water.

Stem dying wildflowers is a quick and simple project, and a great way to spend quality time with someone.

Go for a relaxing stroll on a quiet road, or in a nearby meadow (make sure you get permission from landowner if need be). Cut flowers with an adequate stem for your containers. Get them into water as soon as you can.

Queen Anne’s Lace is growing prolifically this summer. Make sure to wear a good natural tick repellent if you are walking in tall grasses.

Choose the colors you’d like to use. Blues, Greens, and Reds work best. Blending the colors to make purple or orange works well, too. Add 8 ounces of water to each jar/vase, and add 12-15 drops of food coloring.

Mix food coloring into pure water to color cut flowers.

When the water and coloring are well mixed, trim the very ends off of the stems, and place into the colored water. Flowers will begin to turn color after eight to twelve hours. It’s a project we like to do late in the day, so the following day the color starts to become visible, and intensifies throughout the day as the flowers drink up the water. Each day add fresh water if need be, and trim the ends off the stems so the flowers consume more of the water.

Adding food coloring to the water for your flowers is a fun project for kids, and a great way to learn about plants!

Once the flowers have turned color, you can leave them in the colored water, as it looks neat, or the flowers can be arranged in a vase of fresh, plain water. It’s fun to mix all of the colored flowers into one bouquet.

Natural and blue dyed Queen Anne’s Lace.

Dyed Queen Anne’s Lace can be added to floral arrangements, and makes beautiful bouquets for summer parties. The colored flowers can also be preserved by pressing in a flower press, or in a book. It’s a great project, and always makes for a good conversation piece.

Jun 06

Rosemary; for Memory and Friendship

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region.

Rosemary’s unmistakable fragrance, culinary flavor, and medicinal properties have made it popular around the world. Since ancient times, Rosemary has been associated with memory, longevity, and friendship. It is a showy herbaceous shrub that flowers in blue, pink, or white; depending on the variety. It’s Latin name, Rosmarinus literally translated is “dew of the sea”. It’s a very appropriate name, considering Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region.

Greek scholars wore sprigs of Rosemary on their heads when studying.

In ancient Greece, and Rome, scholars wore sprigs of Rosemary in wreaths on their heads when studying. They believed the fragrance aided focus and memory.

Many plants used in daily life long ago were documented,

During the 1,300’s Rosemary was introduced to England. In Medieval times, Rosemary was often placed under one’s pillow at night as it was believed to ward off evil spirits and bad dreams. The well to do hired perfumers who used Rosemary to scent their living spaces.

Hungary Water is believed to be one of the first perfumes made via distillation.

Rosemary was used in making the first distilled perfumes, known as “Hungary Water”. The exact maker, and date of invention are not known. Perhaps, it was a monk or an alchemist who made the first perfume, and gave it to the Queen Elisabeth of Poland. Others speculate that “Hungary Water” was not just a perfume, but also an effective remedy against illness, and first appeared outside of Hungary when it was received as a gift by Charles V of France.


William Shakespeare often made reference to plants in his writings, including Rosemary.

Shakespeare made reference to Rosemary in his writings- “There’s rosemary and rue. These keep seeming and savor all the winter long. Grace and remembrance be to you.” (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)

Colonists brought many plants to this continent from their homeland.

In the 1700’s, Colonists brought Rosemary with them to America. It was frequently found in the kitchen gardens of most homes, and was used in cooking, preserving foods, and as medicine.

Victorian Wedding Bouquets frequently included Rosemary.

During the Victorian Era, Rosemary was frequently included in Bridal Bouquets, and represented Friendship, and Love.

Rosemary was used prolifically during the war to help prevent the spread of infection and disease.

Rosemary was used prolifically in French hospitals during World War II as an antiseptic. Dried Rosemary was burned in corridors to kill airborne illness, and bacteria.

Potted Rosemary

Potted Rosemary can be grown indoors- year round in Maine

Today, Rosemary is as popular as ever, for all the same reasons. Rosemary can be grown outside in Maine during the summer months; in flower pots, or right in the garden. It can be brought in for winter. The fragrance is refreshing, and rejuvenating. Rosemary is wonderful in winter. It is sanitizing, and aids in upper respiratory ailments often experienced during cold and flu season. Recent studies suggest Rosemary aids memory, and is effective for repelling Mosquitoes, as well. It can be used fresh, dried, or distilled.

Rosemary Products by Bear Mountain Botanicals are available here online, or at our Shop in Turner, Maine.

References, and resources.

Oct 15

The History of Plants and Medicine

The recorded history of plants and medicine can be traced back as far as 2700 BC to Sumeria, and Babylon in 2600 BC and the information obtained from clay tablets.

The first known recorded use of plants obtained from clay tablets in ancient Sumeria.

The first known recorded use of plants from ancient Sumeria.

In ancient Egypt, the first plants, medicines and preparations were recorded on a series of scrolls. The Kahun Papyrus of 2000 BC is the most widely known. However, of most interest is the Ebers Papyrus – twenty two yards long, and twelve inches wide, and believed to be composed about 1552 BC. It is said to have come from the tomb of a mummy excavated in Thebes. In this text, there are more than seven hundred drugs mentioned, including castor oil, myrrh, mastic, frankincense, aloe, opium, peppermint, cassia, fennel, and honey. Besides plant products, a fair number of mineral compounds were in use; iron, lead, magnesia. Animal parts were also utilized for the practice of healing. Semiprecious stones were ground into powders for internal use by making infusions, poultices, gargles, and inhalations. The ancients employed mortars of wood, or stone, and containers of clay or glass.

Writings from ancient Egypt detailing the use and preparation of many plants for use as medicine.

Ebers Papyrus details the use and preparation of many plants for use as medicine. Papyrus is in reference to the type of paper, made from Cyperus papyrus. Eber is the person who possessed the writings after their discovery.

In ancient China, Shen Nung was recording the medical practices of the day in manuscript, known as the Pen Tsao, or Native Herbal. He is referred to as “the father of Chinese Medicine”. Following him, during China’s Ming Dynasty, Li Shih-chen composed the Pen Tsao Kang mu, the “great herbal” aka Materia Medica.

Writings during China's Ming Dynasty detailing the use of medicinal plants, and preparations.

Writings during China’s Ming Dynasty detailing the use of medicinal plants, and preparations.

In ancient Greece, philosophy and spirituality began to play heavily in the treatment of people and the healing arts. The ancient Greeks began to look for natural causes that produced disease, and began recording descriptions of symptoms experienced with different diseases and epidemics. The writings of Hippocrates, known as “the father of modern medicine”, included up to 400 drugs and the methods of carrying out pharmaceutical processes for their uses.

"The Father of Modern Medicine"

“The Father of Modern Medicine”

The Romans continued with the Greeks’ methods. However, the ancient Romans’ greatest contribution to health is considered to be their great ability to construct elaborate aqueducts providing the city with clean, running water.

Elaborate aqueducts created by the ancient Romans brought clean running water to the inhabitants of ancient Rome.

Elaborate aqueducts created by the ancient Romans brought clean running water to the inhabitants of ancient Rome.

In the Middle Ages, medical practice and pharmacy were separated after the German Emperor Frederick II issued and edict. This gave rise to professional pharmacy, and set guidelines for quality and accuracy of “prescriptions”. The word apothecary first appears in France in 1178. About 1250, what is believed to be the first Apothecary shop, was opened in Wexler, Germany. About this time, Arnold of Villanova was creating tinctures; extracting properties from plants with alcohol.

It is believed one of the world's first Apothecaries was opened in Wexler, Germany.

It is believed one of the world’s first Apothecaries was opened in Wexler, Germany.

The Renaissance brought about the printing press, and world travel, bringing an end to the isolation of the different cultures of different locales. It also brought about the discovery of many new botanicals.

Floral Painting from the Renaissance period.

Floral Painting from the Renaissance period.

The Age of Enlightenment brought with it the idea that man, the universe, and nature were all intricately connected. Pharmacopoeias came about. However, the majority of the population could not afford doctors, and relied heavily on apothecaries, chemists, and druggists. Great advances in understanding the human body were made. Mapping of the human body begins.
Leonardo Davinci is perhaps one of the most famous artists known to create some of the first intricate drawings of the human body.

Leonardo Davinci is perhaps one of the most famous artists known to create some of the first intricate drawings of the human body.

In the 15th century, trade in drugs and spices becomes a very lucrative pursuit, and the cause of much conflict. It was a great motivator for the conquest of new lands. The trade at this time was in the hands of the”Guild of Pepperers“. After this the Grocers Company was formed which was a collaborative of the Spicers, the Pepperers, the Cullers, and the Oil Sellers Guild. Trade of medicines and drugs became a part of this country.
Travel by sea, and the discovery of new lands and botanicals created a lucrative trade in spices and plants world wide.

Travel by sea, and the discovery of new lands an botanicals created a lucrative trade in spices and plants.

American settlers relied on the old English ways for medicine. Perhaps, many who were persecuted as witches at this time were really natural healers (?). Few settlers were fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of America’s indigenous people in a manner that allowed the free flow of information between people. The healing arts and practices of the indigenous people, being passed on through oral tradition, is knowledge to a much smaller segment of the population, and until more recently in history, has not often been recorded. It is the same for the indigenous populations of other continents.
In America during the 1600's, many were persecuted, and even sentenced to death for their extensive knowledge of plants and the natural world.

In America during the 1600’s, many were persecuted, and even sentenced to death for their extensive knowledge of plants and the natural world.

The 20th century saw many new changes in medicine and methods for cultivating plants- on a big scale. New pharmaceutical drugs were created, such as antibiotics, and vaccines; some made from the chemicals and compounds isolated and obtained from botanicals, some from animal parts or byproducts, others are completely synthetic and lab made. These new medicines have changed medical practice immensely, and how people and practitioners feel about healthcare. Today, it’s the chemicals and compounds isolated and extracted from these plants that are most often used and talked about, not the plants as a whole. It is creating a disconnect with nature, and fostering a reliance on lab created medicines. The basic medical knowledge that has survived human history until now, is being re-created. A whole new human history in medicine is being recorded in the 21st Century!
Sir Alexander Flemming- biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist- discovered Penicillin from the mould, Penicillium notatum.

Sir Alexander Flemming- biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist- discovered Penicillin from the mould, Penicillium notatum.

Sep 03

Living with Lyme Disease, Part 2

Upon returning from the hospital, we got him comfortably situated in bed. He was able to drink and eat a little bit. As time went on, the pain in his head and neck was returning. By 9 pm, the pain was getting bad again. By 10pm, he took an over the counter pain reliever, hoping it would give him some relief.

It was a long night. I slept for a little while, but lay awake most of the night, wondering what could be ailing him, and hoping that the worst was over. He managed to sleep most of the night, but his breathing was really shallow. (This did not help me sleep.) I listened closely to make sure he was in fact breathing, and at times it was hard to tell.

It was a long, restless night. Lyme was about to change our little world forever.

It was a long, restless night. Lyme was about to change our little world forever.

When he woke up Friday morning he was very weak, and did not have much of an appetite. He mentioned the headache was there, but not to the degree it had been. As he described it, “a dull ache in comparison”. He stayed in bed until mid-morning. He had more of a fever than the day before. He got up and stayed vertical for a little while. The baby was happy to see him home this time of the day. She was accustomed to just she and I being at home weekday mornings; when he was at work, and her big brother was at school.
The silver lining to the Lyme cloud... week day baby snuggles.

The silver lining to the Lyme cloud… week day baby snuggles.

It was another beautiful, sunny day. He took a few minutes to go out in the garden, and enjoy the sun and the flowers. It wasn’t long though, and he was ready to rest again. We got him situated in the recliner in the living room. I made him a light lunch, and lots of teas, and lemon water to drink. He spent the remainder of the day in that comfy old chair. His symptoms worsened over the course of the day. He took over the counter pain reliever every 6 hours just to be able to rest. His symptoms were not improving.
Monarch Butterfly in the garden, taken by my partner.

Monarch Butterfly in the garden, taken by my partner.

This night, he was very restless. At 11pm he jolted awake in intense pain! It startled me, but I cannot remember if I was actually asleep. He was having lots of pain, and body aches. His eyes were very blood shot. His fever went up to 102 degrees. The headache wasn’t going away either. More pain reliever. When he was graced with sleep, his breathing was shallow. I lay awake again, listening for anything alarming, or to be at the ready if he needed something. He was so ill, I just could not imagine what was wrong, and dreaded the idea that we may not be through the worst of it. Fortunately, when our son got home from school that afternoon, he went home with my mom for the weekend.
Lyme can cause neurological damage, and varying degrees of body pain.

Lyme can cause neurological damage, and varying degrees of body pain.

The next morning, Saturday, did not go as smoothly as the day before. He was obviously getting more uncomfortable as time was moving on. He got up with me, to relocate to the recliner in the living room. I got him as comfortable as possible, and continued to give him healthy foods and lots of liquids. He did not have an appetite. He let me know he was having a lot of pain in his hips. It was painful for him to sit, stand, or walk. He said his neck was very stiff and achy, and the headache was trying hard to come back full force. I did everything I could think of to help keep the pain from getting worse. I made him a rub for his neck, applied cool and warm packs. Whatever made him feel any better, or kept him from feeling so badly. The fever was hanging on, too. By lunchtime it was becoming clear that things were not improving. Before lunch he decided to get up and move around a bit. When he passed by me, I noticed a red blotch on his neck, behind his left ear. When I mentioned it to him, we both looked at each other with expressions of wonderment and concern.
Rash caused by Lyme Disease.

Rash caused by Lyme Disease.

The mark was the size of a nickel. In the next few minutes that he was up, he discovered he also had a red blotch on his stomach. He pulled his sweatshirt up, and upon examining his torso front and back, he had a total of five, weird looking blotches. He said they did not itch, or feel irritated like a rash. They were warm to the touch. At this time we discussed what we were going to do next… he decided he may need to go back to the ER if things did not start improving. So, I made sure I had the baby’s things ready, and her bag filled with snacks and books, and other things to distract her, if we did have to go back to the hospital. I got myself ready. He got back in the recliner. He didn’t want to eat. At around two that afternoon, he was in serious pain, and the headache was getting worse. I packed both of them in the car, and we went back to the same hospital.
Lyme Disease contributes to thousands of ER visits in the US.

Lyme Disease contributes to thousands of ER visits in the US.

Through the windows we could see they were packed, and very busy. He just looked at me, bewildered. We parked under the marquis and I went in to retrieve a wheelchair. I got him out of the car and wheeled him into the entry way. After finding a place to park, the baby and I went back to get him checked in. We sat for over an hour in the waiting room. “I can’t do this right now” he said. “I’d rather be at home, and fight the pain than deal with sitting in that waiting room for hours”. Feeling defeated in a way, I agreed, and we went home, hoping he would be able to get through the night okay; still not knowing what was wrong with him. I got him as comfortable as possible, and he took over the counter headache medicine. It really didn’t do much for him. It was a long night.

Sunday morning, the blotches were still on his front, back, and neck. He seemed a little better than the night before, but there was no marked improvement. Again, he got comfortable in the living room recliner. He always loved reading the Sunday paper. This morning he could not. His eyes hurt, and he was unable to see the print clearly. He put a movie on TV, but mostly he just listened to it, rather than watch it. It distracted him from how badly he felt. The headache was making it difficult for him to do anything that required his eyes to focus for any length of time. He was a bit light sensitive, as well. (Sound would also become an issue in the days to come.) He went downhill as the day progressed, and before evening, he was ready to try going back to the ER. We went to the same ER as before, and again, it was a mob scene. I suggested we go to the other hospital in town, and see if it the situation looked any better.

The blotches had gotten bigger than the day before. On his torso, they ranged from 3" to 6" in diameter.

The blotches had gotten bigger than the day before. On his torso, they ranged from 3″ to 6″ in diameter.

I pulled up under the marquis at the second hospital, and immediately someone asked if we needed a wheelchair. They helped me get him situated, and wheeled him into the corridor, and sat with him while I parked the car, and got our little one situated in her stroller. When I walked into the emergency department, he was in front of the receptionist’s desk being signed in. We didn’t wait very long and he was seen by the triage nurse, then within minutes was being wheeled back to a room. As we passed through the double doors into the emergency department, I felt like a warrior preparing to battle an unknown enemy. I took a deep breathe, and prayed the entire walk to the treatment room.

A nurse got him onto the bed, and covered him with warm blankets. She told him the first thing she was going to do was have the doctor get him something for the extreme pain he was experiencing. He looked terrible. His color varied between grey, yellow, and white. His eyes were still very blood shot. He was getting sick to his stomach again. They worked quickly to help get him comfortable, and hooked up to an IV line. The doctor appeared, and was very thoughtful, and very serious. He just put off a vibe of intense intelligence and knowledge – and he knew it.

My partner was very fortunate to get very good care at the onset of this ordeal.

My partner was very fortunate to get very good care at the onset of this ordeal.

This doctor was not one for conversation, but very matter of fact, and timely about the task at hand. He did not ask very many questions, but the questions he asked were very specific. He ordered more blood tests. In my great concern, and feeling of helplessness, I needed to tell him all the details. He was very gracious understanding this and humored me. This put us at ease, because though he seemed rigid, and arrogant, he listened, really listened, to every word we said. Before finishing a very thorough and methodical exam of my partner, he said flat out – “you have Lyme Disease”. Both of us were surprised. “Really” was all my partner could say. We asked about the blood test from earlier in the week with the negative result for Lyme. The doctor did not reply to the question, but asked my partner to expose his torso so he was able to take a picture of the big red spots that were still there. He took one picture with his phone and said, “I am emailing this to the Infectious Disease Specialist to see what she thinks”. Then, he explained to us that he grew up in Lyme, Connecticut during the initial outbreak of the Tick Borne disease, and its discovery. Therefore, he was very confident about this.
The first cases of Lyme Disease were discovered, and diagnosed in Lyme, CT.

The first cases of Lyme Disease were discovered, and diagnosed in Lyme, CT.

Within the hour, we received word back from the Infectious Disease Specialist, and she agreed with the ER doctor my partner did absolutely have Lyme. She immediately prescribed an IV dose of antibiotics for him. The ER doctor recommended my partner also have a spinal tap to see if the bacteria was in his spine/spinal fluid. He agreed, and I talked the doctor into letting me stay in the room during the procedure. He explained that normally he would not allow family members to remain in the room when performing this procedure. He decided after I convinced him I could handle this, and the baby was snoozing in her stroller, I could stay. He made me assure him I understood the protocol for maintaining sterility in such an environment prior to proceeding. It was very interesting to watch, as I mentioned the doctor was very methodical, and extremely thoughtful in his manner. (That being said, the next family member that ever needs a spinal tap is flying solo!)

The results of the test came back negative for Lyme in the spinal fluid. The results for the bloodwork had not come back yet. We were released after 9pm with an oral antibiotic to be taken for thirty days, beginning the next day, and instructions to call and make an appointment with the Infectious Specialist. He was told to return to the ER if his symptoms worsened, and they gave him some pain medication to take home.

Large doses of antibiotics, over extended periods of time are often used to try and treat/cure Lyme Disease.

Large doses of antibiotics, over extended periods of time are often used to try and treat/cure Lyme Disease.

By 11pm that night, the bad headache was returning, his body and hips were in a lot of pain, plus he was healing from the spinal tap. He had to take pain medication, but shortly after he did, he was able to sleep. I slept a bit more than the previous nights, too. I felt a small sense of relief now, knowing what we were battling. However, neither of us knew what our expectations should be going forward.

The next day was Labor Day. He did not do so well. He could barely get up and walk around. His headache was not being helped by the pain medication as it had been before. The fever was not letting up, and was hovering around 101. He just laid in the recliner, motionless, with his eyes shut. I kept the curtains drawn to block the light. He was very sensitive to sound. No TV or music in the background. He had no appetite. He was unable to take the oral antibiotics because of his ill stomach. It was back to the ER in the afternoon.

By this time, the baby was (unfortunately) getting used to this routine. She was so sweet through the entire ordeal, and really provided relief from the heavy emotions we were going through. My son was enjoying being spoiled at his grandparents, as it was a long holiday weekend.

Lyme Disease contributes to thousands of ER visits in the US.

In the first week of his illness, we made many trips to the ER.

When we arrived back at the same ER, my partner was immediately wheeled into triage, and then a treatment room. The baby and I got situated while the nurse got my partner situated, and inserted an IV line. A different doctor than the day before entered. He was very outgoing and jolly. After some brief questions, and reviewing the chart/file from the day before, the doctor ordered pain medication, and medication to help stop my partner from vomiting. It was explained he would receive another dose of antibiotics via IV during this visit. This is what the Infectious Disease Specialist ordered. We asked about the blood work from the day before and if the results for the Lyme test had come back from the lab. “Oh, nobody told you?” asked the doctor. “Told us what?” we replied simultaneously. “Oh yeah, you definitely have Lyme Disease. The results are positive!”, he said. My partner and I just looked at each other. Needless to say we had numerous questions about his treatment. How long would it take? How much worse would things get before they improved? Where did we go for information, or assistance? No one could give us any definite answers. He received his antibiotics, and we were sent home late in the evening.
Lyme bacteria are spiral shaped like a corkscrew, and can bore into connective tissue, and organs of the body, making it very hard to treat.

Lyme bacteria are spiral shaped like a corkscrew, and can bore into connective tissue, and organs of the body, making it very hard to treat.

Tuesday morning, I called the Infectious Disease Specialist’s office as soon as it opened. The staff worked to get him in to see her the following week. Until then, she wanted him to take the oral antibiotics. My partner seemed to be looking and feeling a little bit better. He was more talkative, and had a little bit to eat. His color looked better. We both felt a bit encouraged by this improvement, and hoped the second injection of antibiotics would make a difference.

After lunch, he took his first dose of antibiotics. As the afternoon went on, he was going downhill, again. The pain in his head was coming back and he was sick to his stomach again. He couldn’t tolerate light or sound, and the body pain was worsening. He was unable to get relief from pain medication, because he couldn’t keep it down long enough. It was a tough night.

The next day we found ourselves back at the ER. it was an ordeal getting him there. He needed help to walk to the car. Between the front door and the car in the driveway, we stopped three times to sit and rest. He was violently ill. The car ride was absolutely nerve wracking. Once he was checked in, the same doctor who had seen us on Monday was there, so he was familiar with us. My mom came to the ER to get the baby. She brought her to our home for the day so she did not have to be at the hospital. My partner was given more medication to stop him from being sick to his stomach, and more pain medication. It was decided he was also allergic to the oral antibiotics, and could not take them. The Infectious Specialist then ordered thirty days of IV antibiotics. We were instructed to come back to the hospital the next day so he could have a “pick line” inserted, which would be the means for getting the IV antibiotics into his blood stream. We would have to go to the hospital for him to get the antibiotic injections each day until our insurance approved in home care. We were released early in the afternoon, and again told to come back to the ER if need be. When the school bus dropped our son off at home, my mom took him to her house for the night. She made sure we had supper, too. The baby kept us distracted.

The next 48 hours were very difficult for my partner and I. He was so ill. At times I wondered if he was going to need an ambulance. It was that severe.

Thursday morning, we returned to the ER for his pick line to be inserted. It took a while as he had an X-ray before and after the procedure, and the procedure itself took a little time. We were both amazed and grossed out by the whole affair. He did very well.

The "Pick Line" used to administer IV antibiotics for thirty days.

The “Pick Line” used to administer IV antibiotics for thirty days.

Friday morning, he was a little bit better. He was not sick to his stomach when he got up, and he managed to get himself ready for his appointment at the hospital. However, once we got in the car, the motion was too much for him. He was fading. When we arrived at the hospital, he had all he could do to walk. I could not find a wheel chair. We went through the main entrance. They were renovating and things were rearranged. By the time we took the elevator up to the third floor, he was lime green, light headed, and ready to blow!

The first person I saw when the elevator doors opened to Day Surgery was a tall woman in OR cap, gown, booties, and mask. I ran to her and asked for her help. She took one look at my partner and ran for a wheel chair, and grabbed a container. I checked him in for his appointment as he sat on the edge of the corridor, hunched over in the wheel chair. The woman that first helped us came back, and said they had a bed for him. She said “follow me”. By the way, yes, the baby was with us this trip. (Our son was at school.)

He was wheeled into the Day Surgery Recovery room where we were introduced to the nurse who would be giving him his antibiotic injection. He was so ill, she wanted to wait before proceeding. They got him onto a gurney. At that time there was not a doctor on the floor that could order any meds for him. I mentioned the ER doctor told us to contact him if Gary needed anything before getting in to see the Infectious Specialist. I told the nurse I would go see if he might be able to give my partner something to help his symptoms. The baby and I raced downstairs, and fortunately the same doctor was on duty. He wrote me a prescription for pills to make my partner stop throwing up. I don’t think the doctor understood the urgency and that my partner was upstairs. I went back up to Day Surgery and the nurse told me she would take good care of him and to go get the prescription. The baby and I went to the pharmacy and filled his prescription. Upon returning to the hospital, the Infectious Specialist happened to walk through while I was away, and the nurse had her get him an injection to stop him from being ill. They were just giving him a little while to recover before giving him the IV injection. There was nowhere to sit, and barely standing room. I was so focused before, I never noticed how packed the room was with people. I stood with the baby on my hip for what seemed like a very long time.

Prior to insurance approving in home care, we had to go the Day Surgery daily for my partner to receive the prescribed injections.

Prior to insurance approving in home care, we had to go the Day Surgery daily for my partner to receive the prescribed injections.

After a while, he looked and acted like he was feeling much better. The nurse gave him the antibiotic injection, and had us wait another thirty minutes. We were then able to go home, but would still have to come back the next day. This went on for a couple of days until in home care was approved by our insurance. I was so thankful when we stopped having to transport him to get the antibiotic injections.

For the next eighteen days straight he was bed ridden with head pain, attributed to encephalitis. For one month, an in home nurse came by once a week, and a courier delivered the medications, and supplies to care for the pick line site. I administered his antibiotics every day. The kids were very mindful of his condition, and thoughtful most of the time. However, his sensitivity to sound made it tough some days for them to just be kids. It was a big adjustment. None of us were used to him being home all the time. He’s a very on the go kind of guy. Always busy. He worked full time for the same company for more than fifteen years.

He spent most of the month in bed, or the recliner. Once he stopped feeling like he was dying, he hated that he was unable to be active. His eyes hurt and could not focus for some time. This prevented him from reading or watching TV. He had no energy, was very weak, and experienced a lot of pain. He could no longer work full time, or participate in life as he had before. This effected his mood, and outlook on things.

When he was done the antibiotics, he still did not feel completely recovered. He didn’t look the same. He lost a lot of weight. When he was discharged from the care of the Infectious Specialist, not one of the doctors could say with confidence he would not have further issues from this experience. To this day, we are still adjusting to the way it has changed life for us and he has not fully recovered. It has been four years.

You can find more information about Lyme Disease, and a list of resources here

May 01

Living with Lyme Disease, part 1

It was a Thursday morning in late August, a beautiful summer day. My partner was complaining of a severe headache. It had been going on all week, since Sunday evening. It just got progressively worse by the day. No over the counter pain relievers gave any relief. On that Thursday morning, he looked awful. He was obviously in severe pain. He was actually vomiting every 20 minutes because the pain was so intense.

Lyme Disease can strike out of the blue!

Lyme Disease can strike out of the blue!

At nearly 11 am, he was still trying to take phone calls and manage site jobs for the company he had just begun working for. In between bouts, I looked at him and said “get in the d—- car, we are going to the hospital”. I really thought he was going to drop dead that day, from a brain aneurysm, or meningitis, or perhaps he had a brain tumor! It was very concerning, and that severe.

Our son was at school, in third grade. Our daughter was only a year old. I hurriedly packed her diaper bag, including snacks, drinks, and distractions. Into her car seat she went, and I secured her in place. Then, I assisted my partner into the car. Off to the Emergency Room.

Lyme Disease contributes to thousands of ER visits in the US.

Lyme Disease contributes to thousands of ER visits every year in the US.

We pulled up under the marquis and got him into the entrance of the ER, the baby stayed with me while I parked the car. She went straight into her stroller. I raced across the parking lot to join him in the reception, and he was checked in. When asked his symptoms by the triage nurse, he replied severe, excruciating headache that started days prior and got progressively worse. He was running a low fever at the time when she checked his temperature. By the time we exited her office to go back to the waiting room, she too looked concerned.

We waited for what seemed an excruciating amount of time. He sat in the chair of the waiting room, rocking and holding his head in his hands. The baby got tired of her snacks and sippy cup and was ready to move. I had all I could do to hold it together. The whole experience seemed very surreal.

His name was called and we entered the corridor of the ER and were taken to a room, with one bed. The nurse got him comfortable and continued to ask him questions while she put on a mask, and gloves. She told him that the doctor would order blood work. She then asked me about some of his symptoms. As she exited, she told us the doctor would be right in, and she taped signs to the outside of both doors to the room. You know the type… the ones asking others not to enter, possible contagion, wear full gown, etcetera- if you must enter. This made my heart drop. It was all I could do not to cry. The baby was now a good distraction. My partner and I just looked at each other. I really can’t imagine what was going through his mind at that point- other than make the pain stop.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease can often look very similar to other diseases, ailments.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease can often look very similar to symptoms of other diseases, ailments.

Within a short time, the doctor entered in full gown, cap, mask, glasses, and gloves. She was a woman close to our age, and quite pregnant. Thus, I knew immediately she could relate to us on some level. She was very smart, and very compassionate. She began to explain to us that because his symptoms were like that of meningitis, she would test him for this. She also added that he would be tested for West Nile, and Lyme. Until she got the test results back, we would have to stay in the room. She also asked us how many family members had been in close contact with him, just in case. He was given some pain medication, which gave him some relief. He was at least able to be more restful. While the doctor was still with him, someone came in to get his blood samples. They both exited, and we looked at each other. Neither of us really knew what to say, so we took a deep breath, and contemplated to ourselves the possible outcomes, and what we would do next. He called his employer to tell them he was at the ER and would not be into work for the rest of the week. I called my mom to let her know what was going on. Thankfully, she was able to meet our son off the bus when he arrived home that afternoon.

The test results for Meningitis, West Nile, and Lyme all came back negative. He then had a CT scan of his head which revealed no tumor, or other issues. The pain medication had taken the edge off so he was able to rest, and once the pain subsided, he stopped vomiting. We were sent home, with instructions to return to the ER if the headache returned. Feeling anxious, and hopeful at the same time, we prayed the pain would not come back when the medication wore off…

We would soon find out this would begin a whole new journey for us. One we were not ready for, or really well equipped to deal with.

Feb 10

Make a snow candle!

This is the perfect project when the weather is freezing cold, and there is a good snow pack. This winter has been a bit slow in arriving, but this weeks snow falls here in Maine have provided us with just enough snow for this project, and the weather forecast is predicting colder temperatures this weekend!

It is simple. A great project to do with kids, and does not involve more than half an hours time -most of which is spent preparing to go outside. It does not require many supplies, and the end result is something useful and beautiful!



The best days for this project are the coldest, when there is a good snow pack.
I love to do this project with kids (age 7+) because it does not involve a lot of time outside, but just enough to get some fresh air and make you feel refreshed. It does not require the purchase of many supplies, either. Candles do not take long to harden, so kids don’t have to wait long to see the end result.



To get started, you will need one pound of wax, preferably non petroleum. ( I use my own blend of plant waxes.) Bees wax is not recommended, only because of it’s higher melt point. Using a wax with a lower melting point, between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit will give you the best results. One pound of wax yields eight 2 oz. candles.

You will need wick for container candles that has a tab. Make sure the wick you choose is the right gauge for the wax you are using, and the diameter of the candles you are making. Choose wick without a metal or zinc core!! I use a fantastic braid that is 100% natural unbleached cotton, with natural hemp core.

Choose a small saucepan, or pitcher with a heavy bottom (non-aluminum) to melt the wax in . Always melt on low heat, and never leave unattended. (All waxes are flammable if they are over heated!) Use a pan you don’t care about using for cooking in again… note: if you will be melting wax on a wood stove or fire, use a double boiler to melt wax.

An oven mit, or heat proof gloves are needed for the hot pan.Wear half gloves if you have them so it is easier to handle the supplies. It is important that you are able to move about easily and quickly.


This is the order in which you will want to proceed.

First, prepare your outdoor work area by creating your molds. Choose a surface with 8″ or more of snow accumulation. Use the jelly glass (or container 2″ to 2.5″ in diameter) to create cylinder impression in the snow. Make as many as you need. (For best results, don’t pour wax deeper than 2.5″.) Keep it as level as possible, and make the impression about 3″ deep.

Second, inside -melt your wax on low heat. Just before all the wax has completely melted, remove from heat. Turn off stove top! Take the pan/pitcher of wax to your outdoor work area. Allow wax to cool slightly, until it begins to film.

Third, place wicks into the center of the snow molds so they are standing upright.

Pour wax into the molds as quickly as possible.

Watch the candles form right before your eyes. Once the wax is solid (about ten to fifteen minutes) gently pull candles out of the snow.


Once the wax has cooled, and the candles have formed, you can remove them from the snow. Note the lovely texture on the surface of the candle kissed by snowflakes! Your candles should be about the size of a votive, with an approximate burn time of 6 to 8 hours.

I hope you find this project fun, and educational!


Nov 22

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

This is one of my favorite Autumn soups, and it’s so easy to make. Fantastic by itself, with a sandwich, or as a side to a hearty meal, it’s delicious, and good for you!

Make a delicious Butternut Squash Soup with very basic ingredients.

Make a delicious Butternut Squash Soup with very basic ingredients.

Ingredients you will need:

One large Butternut Squash
One small to medium Onion (yellow, or sweet)
Two medium Garlic Cloves
Sage Leaves, 6-8 fresh or dried
Nutmeg, 1/4 tsp
Pepper, a pinch
Sea Salt, 1/2 tsp
Two Quarts Spring Water
Two Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (substitute with Sunflower Oil)
One Quarter Cup Brandy, or White Wine (optional)
One Cup Fresh Cream (Raw Jersey, or substitute with Cashew Cream)

Cooking tools you will need are a stock pot, or large saucepan with a lid, a good kitchen knife, solid cutting board, a large spoon, and a food processor, or blender, measuring cup, and measuring spoons.

Begin by preparing the squash. Carefully, cut the squash in half, clean out the seeds, and peel the outer skin. Cut the squash into cubes of about one inch in size. Set aside.

Cut Butternut Squash in half and remove seeds, peel, and cube to make a soup.

Cut Butternut Squash in half and remove seeds, peel, and cube to make a soup.

Peel and chop the onion, the garlic cloves, and the fresh Sage.

Sauté diced Onions, Garlic, and Sage as the base for Butternut Squash Soup.

Sauté diced Onions, Garlic, and Sage as the base for Butternut Squash Soup.

Place cooking pot on a medium low burner. Add the butter to the pot. Once the butter has melted, add the diced onion to the pot. Sauté lightly until the onions begin to brown. Add diced garlic, Nutmeg, Pepper,and Sage. (I prefer to use dried Sage as the flavor is more enhanced.) Raise the heat on the burner to medium, and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add the Butternut Squash cubes to the mix. Stir, and cover the pot with lid. Cook for five minutes, remove lid, and stir. Allow the squash to become tender on the outside, without browning too much.

Squash, Onions, Garlic, and Sage Butter being sautéed for Soup!

Squash, Onions, Garlic, and Sage Butter being sauteed for Soup!

Add enough Spring Water to submerge the squash completely. Cover and leave on medium heat, cooking for half an hour. Once water has begun to bubble, add the Brandy to the mixture. Cover, and allow to cook for another half hour.

Simmer squash for up to two hours to make a delicious soup.

Simmer squash for up to two hours to make a delicious soup.

Once half an hour has passed, turn the burner off. Allow the soup to sit for half an hour so it is not as hot. Carefully, transfer this mixture into a blender, or food processor. Pulse on high until the soup is smooth. At this time add the cream, and blend. (If you wish to omit the cream, it is okay.) Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and heat on low burner for ten to fifteen minutes. Ladle into serving bowls, or cups. Garnish with fresh Sage. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup!

Butternut Squash Soup!

Oct 26

Essential Oils, digging deeper

This blog is dedicated to weeding out the myths and mysteries surrounding Essential Oils, and getting to the root of how they can best be used, with the greatest overall benefit. (Pardon the plant puns…). Realistically, this should be a series of blogs, because the information is so vast- I will see what evolves. Here it goes…


Ancient Egyptians utilized plants and Essential Oils in everyday life, and in death.

Ancient Egyptians utilized plants and Essential Oils in everyday life, and in death.


Essential Oils have been used by humans for thousands of years for their medicinal, spiritual, and healing properties. Essential Oils contain the fragrance molecules of plants, and are located within the stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits. These oils are made up of many chemicals, some of them volatile in nature, resulting in a wide range of fragrances. Essential Oils are what make Rose petals smell delicately sweet, and give Mint leaves their minty menthol smell. The purpose of these oils is to defend the plant by repelling pests, or helping the plant to create seeds by attracting pollinators. Various methods are used by people to extract these oils from fresh and dried plant matter. The most frequent method used is steam distillation.

Peppermint Oil is extracted via steam distillation of the leaves. Peppermint Oil is used in many products.

Peppermint Oil is extracted via steam distillation of the leaves. Peppermint Oil is used in many products.


The great number of Essential Oils that can be produced, are as wide ranging as the variety of plants on the planet. The applications for all of these oils is even greater in number! The Food, Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic, and Chemical Industries have been using Essential Oils for many decades. All of these industries utilize many oils, extracts from Essential Oils, and by products created from processing Essential Oils, in a wide assortment of consumer and industrial products. The majority of Essential Oils produced are used to create flavors, and fragrances. The FDA maintains a list of Essential Oils it regards as safe for use as food additives, and what is referred to as the GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) list. It does not maintain a system for grading the quality of the types of Essential Oils in products used by consumers, or pure Essential Oils available in the free market.

The majority of Essential Oils produced world wide are used by the Beverage Industry.

The majority of Essential Oils produced world wide are used by the Beverage Industry.


That being said, there are many terms now used to describe the quality of an Essential Oil, all of which were created by those dealing in Essential Oils, including the producers, and professionals using them. With the rapidly increasing popularity of Essential Oils in the general public, some confusion has been created around the meaning and validity of these terms. Some of the popular terms used today are “therapeutic grade” , “food grade”, “pharmaceutical grade”, and “cosmetic grade”.

“Therapeutic grade” implies the Essential Oil is from the first extraction, or distillation of a plant. If done correctly, it is the purest and most concentrated form of a plant oil/Essential Oil. This is the desired form for medicinal purposes. Essential Oils used by the Food Industry can be referred to as “food grade”. For many types of plants, this is the oil or byproducts collected from a second, or third distillation of an Essential Oil. (It is at this part in the process that specific chemicals in the Essential Oils can also be extracted and isolated.) These oils, and Essential Oil byproducts are used for flavoring and aroma for foods and food products, and for scenting commercial soaps, toiletries, and household cleaners- most often in combination with synthetic compounds. The Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic industries use Essential Oils derived from both processes. Therefore, the terms “pharmaceutical grade” and “cosmetic grade” don’t mean much (but really, neither do the terms “therapeutic” or “food” grade).

Some companies peddling Essential Oils have created their own brand of labeling. A great marketing gimmick, but truly meaningless by industry standards.

Some companies peddling Essential Oils have created their own brand of labeling. A great marketing gimmick, but truly meaningless by industry standards.


The only way to know for sure if an Essential Oil is pure, and of the desired chemical makeup, is to have it lab tested. Essential Oil producers, and suppliers will have their oils lab tested. This determines the pricing, and use. Every true Essential Oil has its own chemical “fingerprint”. Chemists, and lab technicians can view these Essential Oil “fingerprints” by a process known as Gas Chromatography. This is the standard to which all Essential Oils are measured. It is an expensive service, and not very many labs are open to public business for this purpose. Many large corporations have their own labs that not only test the oils, but design product uses for them.

A printout of the chemical fingerprint of Organic Lavender Oil, generated by a Gas Chromatograph.

A printout of the chemical fingerprint of Organic Lavender Oil, generated by a Gas Chromatograph.


True Essential Oils are expensive. This is due to several factors, but mainly because it takes a lot of plant material to create a small amount of oil. For instance, it takes 50 bushels (approximately 1,200 pounds) of fresh Rose petals to produce one ounce of pure Rose Oil. Pure Rose Oil (called Rose Absolute) currently retails for over $200 for one fluid ounce. It’s not something you will find on the shelf in your local health food store. If you come across “Rose Absolute” retailing at $14 for a one ounce bottle, it is not the real deal! It has been adulterated by adding other liquids to it, sometimes plant oils, but often petroleum. Furthermore, it is just not possible for there to be as much pure Rose Oil on the market, as is claimed by retailers, because there just is not that much pure Rose Oil available annually.

It requires approximately 5o bushels of Rose petals to make 1 ounce of Rose Absolute.

Approximately 50 bushels of Rose petals are required to make 1 ounce of Rose Absolute.


The region of the world plants were grown for an Essential Oil can also be an indicator of quality. Bulgaria produces the majority of the worlds’ Rose Oil. The climate there lends itself to growing roses ideal for making high quality Essential Oil. The United States produces most of the worlds’ Peppermint Oil. It is one of the products counted as part of America’s Gross Domestic Product- GDP. Essential Oils are globally traded commodities. The production of oils employs many people around the globe, mostly farmers, and farm workers.

Annual Lavender Harvest in England.(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Annual Lavender Harvest in England.(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


The study and use of Essential Oils for health is called Aromatherapy. When it comes to applying Essential Oils for health and healing, there are three schools of thought; British, French, and German. The British method teaches about using oils applied topically, as well as fragrance applications. The French method focuses on using oils via oral ingestion, and fragrance. The German methods focus primarily on fragrance value of Essential Oils. The British method is taught here in the US, and is the accepted standard. It is generally against the ingestion of Essential Oils. Reputable Aromatherapists, and those well educated on Essential Oils from ideals of the British, French, or German, will never recommend the regular or prolonged oral ingestion of Essential Oils.

AFNOR -Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) is the French national organization for standardization and its International Organization for Standardization member body. This organization oversees the standards for Essential Oils globally.

AFNOR -Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) is the French national organization for standardization and its International Organization for Standardization member body. This network of organizations oversees the standards for Essential Oils globally.


To buy from a reputable source, use the information you have just read about. Know your Essential Oil retailer. Find out about where the oil comes from. Know the market value. Ask if a certificate of authenticity can be provided by the producer for the oil you want to purchase. Buy from someone who really knows how to use Essential Oils for the greatest health benefit. Do your own research.

In closing, the likelihood of someone being caused serious, or permanent damage from the use of Essential is very low. However, it is important to use Essential Oils so they have the greatest benefit, and create no risk for adverse health effects. When used properly, they are some of the greatest healing tools on the planet.

Oct 05

Autumn in Maine, and Lyme Disease

Now that the kids are back to school, and everyone is saying “farewell” to summer, it’s easy to forget- ticks are not. These tiny little vectors of disease are still crawling about, trying to make the most of the remaining time before winter arrives. Adult female Deer Ticks are very active in August and September to find a host, because this is when they lay their eggs. Adult ticks seek out large mammals for a meal like dogs, cats, horses, deer, moose, and people. As a result, there are many cases of Lyme diagnosed during the Autumn months.

Life cycle of a Deer Tick.

Life cycle of a Deer Tick.

Some of the symptoms of Lyme include and are not limited to headache, joint and body aches, chills, low grade fever, nausea, bulls eye rash, memory and concentration issues, intense fatigue. Frequently recurring headaches, or long lasting headaches are a common symptom of Lyme patients. Persistent pain and stiffness in the neck is another. Some patients are fortunate to get the classic bulls eye rash, which puts doctors on alert to test for Lyme. (Not all people infected with Lyme will have a bulls eye rash.) Experiencing a bad “cold or flu”, and feeling like a full recovery never occurs is another common complaint of patients. Other symptoms include swelling of one, or multiple joints; Bells Palsy; heart palpitations; shortness of breath; vertigo; vision problems; swelling of lymph nodes; unexplained weight loss.

Lyme disease can be hard to get a diagnoses for, especially as many symptoms associated with Lyme, are symptoms associated with other illnesses, such as flu or the common cold, even meningitis. When school is back in session, and the weather gets colder germs and colds get passed around, and many who are older often complain the cold makes old injuries, or joints more stiff. So, it’s easy to see how one might not go to a doctor in a reasonable amount of time for symptoms thought to be caused by a seasonal cold, or ailments associated with aging. On the flip side, one can also see how doctors may not consider testing some patients for Lyme when they ought to be, because the symptoms are so much like that of other illness. For others, the symptoms are so severe, there is little doubt.

If you know you have been bitten by a Deer Tick, and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get tested for Lyme. Some doctors still do not recognize the importance or urgency for diagnosing this disease as soon as possible. If you don’t feel like you are being taken seriously, find a doctor willing to work with you. If you are able to go to an Infectious Specialist, do so. There are few doctors that are truly “Lyme Literate”. There are even fewer that understand how to properly treat Lyme- but there are a few. In recent years there are more support groups for Lyme patients, and more information available. Just this year, the Maine CDC changed the wording in in its guidelines for diagnosing and treating Lyme, that is a little bit more patient, and doctor friendly. (This took a lot of effort on the part of advocates for Lyme patients, and the doctors who treat them.)

Don’t get discouraged! It can be confusing, there is so much to learn, and the information is always changing with ongoing research. Here are some resources for Lyme patients, and their care givers, and families that you may find helpful.

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