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Monday, May 28, 2012

Copperhead! Oh, %@!+*

Copperhead Snake
photo by
Good morning, All.  As I have told ya'll in the past.....we NEVER know what is going to happen around here from week to week.

If you are really squeamish about snakes today's blog post is not for you.  Hopefully, barring snake bites or any other unforeseeable circumstances, I will blog about that delicious summer vegetable soup and the plant Mullein in next week's post.

The snake that bit Ann was the same color as
the dirt and dried grasses.  It was almost
completely camouflaged!
photo by
Last night, our "down the road" friend and neighbor, Ann was bitten by a Copperhead.  Personally, I thought she handled the whole situation very calmly.  Yours truly would probably would have to be sedated upon arrival at the Emergency Room.

She followed the right procedure for snake bite.  She did not panic.  She killed the snake to take with her to the Emergency Room (now that is another story for a little later in the post!)  She called someone to assist her...we live 19 + miles from the nearest hospital.  She applied ice (controversial, I know).  Fortunately, my fella, L, was visiting and he drove US to the Emergency Room.  Well, we drove Ann to the ER....did I mention she handled this situation better than I would have!

Trans-Pecos Copperhead
Agkistrodon controtrix pictigasterphoto from
The only notable difference from the other
2 species is that this guy has an
elaborately patterned underbelly.
That's okay, I don't plan on asking him
to roll over so I can find out who his
people are.  Oh, that's a southern
thing.  We like to find out where you
belong in our world by asking you,
"Who'se your people?"
meaning relatives.
There are 3 species of Copperheads residing in Texas.  They are the Trans-Pecos Copperhead, the Broad-banded Copperhead, and the Southern Copperhead.  The Copperhead is a venomous pit-viper.

Back at the Emergency Room, Ann was treated quickly.  She was watched for about 2 hours, the areas above, below and on the bite were measured frequently.  Oh, so fortunately, the snake only got her with one fang and did not inject a full load of venom into her!

Let me tell you, if you get a full load of venom, then you will have to be injected with 4-5 viles of anti-venom.  At a whooping $8,000.00 a vile.  We swear this is what the doctor said.  And I googled cost of anti-venom, and some Arizona hospitals charge over $12,000 per vile.  Yikes!

Copperheads have the mildest venom of the poisonous snakes but in most years they bite more people.  (For some reason, I am not reassured!)  This is because the copperhead does not run (???  how about slither!) away when threatened.  It is thought that because of it's excellent camouflage, it lies still,

Broad-banded Copperhead
aka Texas Copperhead
Agkistrodon controtrix laticinctus

hoping to be undisturbed.  Most people and pets are bitten because they step on the snake.  That is what happened to Ann.  And the other day, the dogs and I were walking by the woods...and walked all over a Copperhead before one of the dogs smelled it.  Fortunately, it never offered to strike and we quickly left the area.

"Copperheads often employ a "warning bite" when stepped on or agitated and inject a relatively small amount of venom, if at all.  "Dry bites" involving no venom are particularly common with the copperhead, though all pit vipers are capable of a dry bite."  wikipedia

Southern Copperhead
Agkistrodon controtrix
Photo by

We did take the snake with us to the Emergency Room.  Actually, the snake was put in a garbage bag, I did mention that Ann had killed it.  Because, I am not sure I trusted the deadness (????) of said snake and it was in the back seat with me (Ugh!), I tied a really tight knot in the bag.  A hospital orderly came and took the snake from me. The nurse on duty wanted nothing to do with said snake, and voiced her thoughts loudly, "No snakes, No snakes in my area!"  Anyway, the orderly looked tentatively at the bag and said "Is the snake in here?"  Well, yeah!  I am not going to carry it around in my purse! Geesh (I didn't say that, but I have one of those open book faces, so he knew what I was thinking!)  Anyway, he had to cut the bag open because the knot was so tight he couldn't get it untied.  I told him "They told me it was dead, but that snake cannot be dead enough for me!"  (My apologies to all the snake lovers out there.)
Symphytum officinale

Copperhead snake bite symptoms:
Inflammation and skin infection
Swelling of the bitten body part
Severe vomiting and nausea

If not treated in a timely manner the venom can severely affect the bone tissue and body muscles.  Especially, when the bite is on the hand or foot.  If you are bitten on the hand or foot, remove any rings immediately!  There will be swelling!

There is a lot of information and mis-information out there about snake bites.  The main one!  Don't be like John Wayne in True Grit, never cut or suck the bite site!  NO! NO! NO!

You will hear to apply ice or not to apply ice.  There is recent information that applying ice could possible cause more damage.

The best way to handle this situation.....just like Ann did....get to the hospital immediately!  Now, I know there are a lot of experienced snake handlers and herbalists out there that self treat.  Well, most of us do not fall into that category.  Don't panic, but do seek help!  Copperhead bites are rarely fatal.

Every country girl needs a good pair of
heavy duty work boots and a FEARLESS protector.
After doing some late night research, these are the herbal treatments that seemed most popular for the care of the snake bite after the trip to the Emergency room:
1 dropperful of Echinacea tincture in a 4 oz. cup of water every 15 minutes,
plantain poultices
and comfrey or plantain salve.

I have the Echinacea tincture and am making a Comfrey salve.  The fresh Comfrey is in the oil brewing on the stove as I work on this post.  And you had better believe I wore my big green boots and took my walking stick to poke around every plant!

Well, enough for today.  Sure hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend.  Be careful where you step and don't stick your hand in places where you cannot see!  There just might be a creepy crawler in there, that is as scared of you as you are of it.  Until next time, stay safe!  Herbally, Susan

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with her and not only will she not scold you, but she will make a fool of herself, too!

Samuel Butler, Higgledy-Piggledy 

Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day)
is observed on the last Monday in May.
Remembrance is symbolized by the
Red Poppy, an American wildflower.
painting from

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Doin' the Happy Dog Dance!

Morning Glory growing on dried brush.
Good afternoon, All.  I do not like to keep secrets.  No, no, no!  Now all of ya'll that have told me secrets and said "Please, don't repeat this!", fear not!  I will not repeat what you have confided in me.   You know what I mean, something in the planning stage that you are so excited about that you tend to have a goofy smile on your face all the time and your friends and loved ones are beginning to wonder why you are so distracted.  You must be in love, well, yes, with an idea or dream, or I suppose, a person.  Anyway, I have been like that for the last couple weeks.  I have not been able to sleep at night (except with the help of herbs) because I plan my secret all day, then I plan my secret all night.  Or at least that is how it seems!  So, let me fill you in on my big secret and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to sleep tonight!

We will talk about this herb
next week!
I will be opening an herb company in Winnsboro, Texas in the next couple weeks.  Yee Haw!  I finally got to tell the world! I feel so much better!

This could be Chi and me
doing the Happy Dog Dance!

Okay, now for explantations.....if you have ever been to the Winnsboro Farmers Market  

and stopped by my table, you know that I always have fresh eggs, granola, dried herbs, tea blends, tinctures, salves and herbal skin care products.  Besides all the Texas native edible plants that I bring along each week.  So, StarDragonfly Herb Company will be an extension of my Farmers Market table.  It will be my workshop where I create my products, a retail store for StarDragonfly and Sister Susan's products, and other natural or healthy stuff.  Things such as soaps, candles, honey, pet stuff (well, for now, a doggie herbal shampoo and kitty catnip toys).  Eventually, we will add more health products, such as vitamins and minerals, essential oils, bulk foods, natural farming stuff........but, that part of the store is still in the dream phase.

Star Dragonfly Herb Company is located on Elm Street between the State Farm office and Hornbuckle's Flower shop.
The store hours will be...........
Datura wrightii
Scared thorn-apple, Jimsonweed, Thorn apple
Datura, Angel Trumpet, Sacred datura
Texas native wildflower
All parts of this plant are poisonous!

Wednesday-Friday................10:00 am- 6:00 pm
Saturday............................... 10:00 am - 2:00 pm        
Every 3rd Friday....................10:00 am - 8:00 pm

You can contact me at 903-588-4313.

And please, let us know what you would like to see in StarDragonfly Herb Company.   Especially, for my readers in the Winnsboro and surrounding areas.......are you interested in a certain essential oil, health food product, crystal deodorants (yes, there is such a thing), what do you have to travel clear to Dallas or Tyler to buy or have shipped mail order?  We will be happy to try and stock these items, so our customers can save gas money and travel time.

Just a little more about my "dream come true" herb shop!

I would like to start a Mystery Book Club that meets at StarDragonfly Herb Company one Thursday night of each month.  Either the 1st or the last Thursday.  I would like to see this book club have a great time with the cozy mystery book genre that deals with herbs or tea.  Examples:

Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayle's series.  China is an Herbalist in the fictional Central Texas town of Pecan Springs.  China owns an herb shop and gets herself into all kinds of interesting situations in her pursuit of bad guys and gals.  The books contain recipes and information on herbs.  She has a new series that is about southern women gardeners called the Darling Dahlias.  A fun series!

Laura Child's Tea Shop Mystery series.  Her main character is Theodosia Browning, a lovely tea shop owner in Charleston, South Carolina and her super dog, Earl Grey.  Theo is friends with an unusual cast of characters Drayton, the tea master and Haley, her in house chef extraordinaire.

I spent a delightful afternoon last Sunday researching other herb or plant "cozy" mysteries that would be fun to read........
Bois d'arc tree fruit
Osage Orange
Maclura pomifera

Ann Ripley......gardening
Joyce and Jim Laverne.......gardening
Mary Freeman..........landscaping company
Kate Collins..........flower shop
Kathy Lynn Emerson.........Lady Susanna Appleton, herbalist when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne
Vicky Lane..........Elizabeth Goodweather, owner of a flower/herb farm in North Carolina
Ann McMillan.....Civil War Mystery series with a Virginia herbalist
Suzanne Young...Edna Davies amateur herbalist in Rhode Island
Sheila Pim.....Irish Village gardening mysteries
Ellis Peters...The Cadfael Chronicles, 12th century Welsh Benedictine monk who is an herbalist.

Wow!  I have only read Laura Childs and Susan Wittig Albert.  I am so looking forward to finding these other authors!

Okay, enough for today!  Stop by and see me when you are in Winnsboro.  I will try to always have a pot of herbal tea brewed and ready for sippin'!  And hey, as much as I love cookies....well, you never know what yummy baked good may be hidden among the herbs. Next week, I have a really good summer vegetable soup recipe for you and we will talk about Mullein, a very versatile plant.  But, if you have been reading the posts this year, you know that we never know what is going to happen around here and I just love to share our life on the farm with you!  Herbally, Susan

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dog with an Attitude, Poke Weed and Elvis?

Head of Ranch Security Summer Buzz Cut.
I just love the tail.
Good morning, All.  The weather has been beautiful lately.  We have actually gotten some rain and the last 2 days the temperature has been tolerable.

As you might imagine from looking at the photo, Chi was not too thrilled with me for about a week after the haircut.  I have never had a dog that could give me the "cold shoulder" quite as effectively as she can.  She will sit as close to Cousin Sandra as she can, cast those lovely brown eyes over me disdainfully, then slowly close her eyes, and lift and turn that pointy nose in the opposite direction until she isn't looking at me.  I guess in doggiedom, if you cannot be seen you just may not exist.  Sorry, Chi Chi girl.

There are still some wildflowers blooming.  So let's go for a walk and let us see what we can see.......

Wild Foxglove Penstemon cobaea
Photo taken at Spring Creek Preserve
 Wild Foxglove Penstemon cobaea

Other common names....Prairie penstemon, Foxglove penstemon, False foxglove, Large-flowered beardtongue, Large-flowered penstemon, Prairie beardtongue, Cobaea penstemon

Wild foxglove is not related to the true European foxglove.  The European foxglove is from the genus, Digitalis which is in no way related to the genus Penstemon.  Our wildflower is in the genus Penstemon.  Info from Ask Mr. Smarty Plants at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Wild Foxglove is easily grown from seed.  Just snap off a flower that is done flowering, let the seeds dry then scatter the seeds.

Poke Weed

The photo on the left is NOT Elderberry flowers!  It is poke weed!  An interesting plant.  It is edible.  Oh, just for the record.  We do not eat Poke, and I won't recommend or not recommend eating it because in the South, well, let me put it this way.  If someone's memaw, mama, aunt or neighbor cooked and ate this plant, you might just be treading on sensitive territory.  So, when dealing with any herb, please do your research!) It does contain poison (phytolaccatoxin, triterpene, saponis, phytolaccin and histamines).  Poke is a very, very powerful medicine plant but you really have to know what you are doing!  Poke is one of those old fashion folk plants.  Did you know that there is a Tennessee Polk (Poke) Salad Association?  Yeah, check this out!  http://rockytopgen.com/polksalad.index.html  "The purpose of our association is to inform the public as to the different way to safely and properly prepare "Polk Salad" for consumption as a healthy and nutritious food source."  The Tennessee Assoc. spells the weed's name P.o.l.k because of the spelling in the following song.

Milk Weed
"Polk Salad" Annie
Sung by Elvis Presley
Lyrics by Tony Joe White

If some of ya'll never been down South too much...
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this, so that you'll understand
What I'm talking about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods and the fields,
looks somethin' like a turnip green,
Everybody calls it "Polk Salad",
Indian Blanket
Gaillardia also, called Firewheel
Used to know a girl that lived down there and 
she'd go out in the evenings and pick a mess of it...
Carry it home and cook it for supper, 'cause that was about all they had to eat,
But they did all right.

Down in Louisiana where the alligators grow so mean
There lived a girl that I swear to the world made the alligators look tame
"Polk Salad" Annie "Polk Salad" Annie
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her mama was working on the chain-gang
(a mean, vicious woman)                                             

Barbara's Buttons
Marshallia caepitosa

Everyday 'fore supper time she'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess o' "Polk Salad" and carry it home in a tote sack
"Polk Salad" Annie 'Gators got your granny 
Everybody said it was a shame
"Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain gang
(a wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman)
Lord have mercy, Pick a mess of it.
Her daddy was lazy and no count
Claimed he had a bad back
All her brothers were fit for was stealin' watermelons out of my truck patch
"Polk Salad"Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her mama was a working' on the chain gang

(Sock a little "Polk Salad" To me, you know I need a mess of it)

Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta
Well, that was fun!  Hope you have a great week!  Remember...

Native Plant Society of Texas 
Winnsboro Chapter
will meet at StarDragonfly Herbals
Thursday, May 17 at 6:00 pm 

We will be having a potluck supper....so if your plannin' on makin' the meetin', please bring your favorite dish or dessert!  We will provide ice tea and homemade sourdough bread + herb butter.  

Oh, and if your goin' to be a little late, let me know and we will eat supper then look at the plants around the house, before venturing off onto Mr. C's land.

Please RSVP at stdragonfly@yahoo.com and I will email you directions to the farm. 

Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.
Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley
photo from Rolling Stones

Monday, May 7, 2012

Heart Strings

Good morning, All.  I am sitting here trying to decide how to write the blog this morning.  I try to keep the blog upbeat.  There is already so much sadness and violence in the world, you don't need another dose of that while reading this blog.  But, the reality is that a friend of mine and the city of Winnsboro passed away Friday night.  So I am sad.....that is reality.  I don't have words to tell those who also loved her that all will be well without sounding insincere.  No one can measure or judge another's grief.  Grief is tricky.  I know there are stages of grief.....but they never hit us in any particular order.  There is the anger, the  sadness, the guilt.  Some feel betrayed, some are just stunned and so live in denial.  For some of us life goes on.....we get to care for a beloved pet of the person who passed on......whether permanently or temporarily, Cousin Sandra and I feel that because Laika has come to live with us, we are sharing a very special part of Marlena.  Marlena had rescued Laika, I am not sure the whole story, but they were bonded by heart strings.  One thing I have learned from living on the farm.  Life goes on...sadly sometimes...and joyfully most of the time.  Right now me and mine at StarDragonfly Herbals are sad.

If you knew Marlena, I share your sadness, if you didn't know her, well, you might just be experiencing your own version of loss and sadness.  Come take a walk with me....we will take the dogs.  Then we will sit in the shade of the Oak tree and drink a cup a tea.  Hopefully, well, I know in time...All will be well, once again.

Herbally, Susan