Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fox Dens, Mink Sign, and Healing Lobelia




 Darn it, but I had to play grown up today.  Some business contacts had to be made and they could only happen today.  This meant that for a good part of this gorgeous day I was stuck waiting by the phone and computer so I could book some stays at the glamping center I run.  The good thing is I met some wonderful people over the phone and am looking forward to meeting them in person.  The bad thing...the wilds have been calling me all day.

There wasn't enough time to get down to the bogs so once again I will have to forgo gathering the wintergreen I so desperately need.  Maybe on Tuesday I can finally make a day of it.  This evening, however, there was enough time to head up to fox knoll.  I've been hearing the young barking at night and know they have moved out of the den and are learning to hunt with their mother now.  I have to go up and see what they have left behind at the den site. 

The fox are just recovering here from their long war with the coyote.  When the coyote moved east it began to decimate both the grey and red fox populations.  The foxes got an unlikely ally though...the gray wolf.  When gray wolves move into an area here in the east, they do not seem to tolerate coyotes in their territory.  The once vocal coyote now slinks silently away from the greater predator, their cousin the wolf.  This gives the fox, which the wolves don't seem to notice, a chance to come out of hiding and their numbers have rebounded considerably.

 
Moving across the footbridge of Rocky Hollow Creek, I see a pair of crayfish claws scattered on the boards.  It seems madam mink had a lovely meal of shellfish right here where she could keep an eye on the world, yet still dive into the water if trouble reared its head.  Mink are second only to the otter for water loving weasels.

As I suspected, the fox den was abandoned.  The young only stay for as long as needed to keep them safe.  Then they move on to rendezvous sites scattered about their territory.  This way they leave before the flea, ticks, and other parasites build up at the den site.  By leaving it, they effectively take their blood, and therefor the parasite's meals away from them.  Starving them where they crawl.  Not much left at the den, a few fox tracks, a couple dry old bones that look to be rabbit, and a few well chewed turkey feathers.  It looks like mamma fox kept her young well fed.

 
The sky is darkening as the shortening days begins to give away to night.  The gathering clouds are marking the promise of rain by tomorrow morning.  I turn to head home.  Over the river and through the woods...well, back to my own house before it gets too dark and the mosquitoes come out to carry me away.  Just at the top of the hill before I leave the woods I am startled by a little garter snake hurrying to the warm crevice of the rocks stacked at the edge of the field by farmers for generations.  She startles me enough to slow me down and make me look to the ground. 

 
There at my feet is a lovely little purple flower barely able to be seen in the midst of all the green.  It is lobelia, a very strong medicine plant here in this area.  Lobelia is often called Indian tobacco, because of its slightly narcotic effects.  It acts like smoking a cigarette does by calming the body a bit.  One of its uses is to help smokers quit, calming them when the worst of the cravings hit.  Another use I use it for is to help asthmatics relax their lungs so that they can breath again.  It is a lifesaving plant to know.  Though the dose cannot be any more than 10 to 15 drops of tincture because it can also relax the breathing action of the lungs as well if you get too much.  More is not better when it comes to lobelia.

Some do dry the plant for tea, but I find it loses its medicinal qualities quickly after drying.  I make a gentle tincture of it instead.  But I don't reach for the hard spirits for this tincture.  The higher the proof, the more of the lobelia is extracted.  Because caution must be used with this plant I instead reach for a nice white wine for my tincture base.  It will help me not over use this medicine.  Vinegar also works fine if you wish to avoid alcohol but don't dilute the vinegar before you use it.

Lobelia is a small, unassuming plant of great medicinal value...not one I would want to do without.  But like all beings of light, it also has darkness. Do not misuse lobelia and she can save lives, end addictions and allow us a clean breath when it seems like one will never come.  But she can stop that breath if we do not respect her.