I'm sure everyone dreams, wide awake dreams, dreams of places to go, things to do, loves to live. Dreams are wondrous things. In my dream I was seated in a horsedrawn wagon slowly moving through the countryside. This has become reality thanks to a few words of encouragement by a dear friend and four years of learning, lots of help and also lots of work. Yes, it became reality this dream of mine, but it has brought me so much more. There have been many surprises along the way. I could never have expected the door to life that would open, a very different life than I had known. I could never have imagined all the beautiful people that would come into our life because of the dream, or the amazing horse that we would spend years loving and caring for, and the moments of pure bliss we would experience as she pulled us in a small wagon through the forest. I never dreamed of the hours I would spend sleeping and healing in Toti's magical space resting under a huge tree with Vanille looking in the window to comfort me. What I dreamed of, the horsedrawn wagon traveling country roads, has happened and those days have been ecstasy. Of course there have been difficult moments and setbacks along the way but they have faded in my memory. The beauty is what shines brightest in my mind.
We didn't take a trip in Toti this season and I can't hide my disappointment. We were blocked by weather, injuries, and finally a nasty virus. I haven't ridden Vanille very much either. Nothing tragic has happened, just small things that have stopped us and forced us to just relax. However we have taken numerous three hour trips with the small wagon which is more adaptable to narrow dirt paths through the forest. These trips have been incredible and we have been able to share them with friends. November marks a year since I had my third total knee replacement and finally I am feeling stronger. November will be my 77th birthday and I feel so blessed to have lived this long. November will also be the third anniversary of Vanille's arrival here.
Lately I have discovered the fun of simply taking Vanille for a walk. She clearly loves this moment in her day as she comes at a gallop when she sees me and almost puts on her halter herself. Over the past three years we have established a very gentle relationship and there is a silent communication between us. Bella comes along and we just walk down the road all together, stopping at a tasty green spot or two. The three of us seem to enjoy the quiet of walking under the towering trees, watching the leaves drift down and simply enjoying the peace of the moment. We have been noticing how Vanille chooses certain plants to nibble and I have begun researching the nutritional properties of these plants. That she knows instinctively which plants are beneficial and have a high nutritional value becomes more and more interesting as I continue my research. Did we humans have the same capability long ago? Of course we did! I could never have expected that Vanille would teach me a long lost art. These are her favorites:
Beech tree leaves (Fagus) (French / Hetre)
Fresh from the tree, beech leaves in spring are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. The young leaves can be steeped in gin for several weeks, the liquor strained off and sweetened to give a light green/yellow liqueur called beech leaf noyau.
Plantain (genus Plantago Major) (French/Plantain) (Waybread, Dock, Fleawort)
One of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal crops in the world. A poultice of the leaves can be applied to wounds, stings, and sores in order to facilitate healing and prevent infection. The active chemical constituents are Aucubin (an anti-microbial agent), Allantoin (which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration), and Mucilage (which reduces pain and discomfort). Plantain has astringent properties, and a tea made from the leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes.
Broadleaf plantain is also a highly nutritious leaf vegetable that is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. The young tender leaves can be eaten raw, and the older, stringier leaves can be boiled in stews and eaten.
Wild Chamomile (Matricaria discoidea) (French, Camomille)
Chamomile tea has long been used, as a traditional folk remedy, for a wide range of health issues. Nowadays, researchers are increasingly exploring its effectiveness in managing illnesses, including cancer and diabetes.
The flowers are dried for herbal tea. Vanille just eats the flowers.
Mallow (Malva neglecta) (French/Mauve à feuilles ronds)
People use the flower and leaf to make medicine. Mallow is used for irritation of the mouth and throat, dry cough, and bronchitis. It is also used for stomach and bladder clmplaints. To treat wounds, some people put Mallow in a warm moist dressing (poultice) and apply it directly to the skin, or add it to bath water.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) (French/ Ortie)
The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I. Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).
Burdock (Arctium) (French/Bardane)
The root is sometimes used as food. The root, leaf, and seed are used to make medicine. Some people take burdock by mouth to increase urine flow, kill germs, reduce fever, and “purify” their blood. It is also taken by mouth to treat colds, cancer, anorexia, stomach and intestinal complaints, joint pain, gout, bladder infections, diabetes, high blood pressure and skin conditions.
Vanille also loves a vine that is growing wild over a stone wall but the leaves are gone now and I am not yet able to identify it.
This is just the beginning of my study. If you are interested, read more on the internet. All of the above is taken from internet searches. AND, watch what your horse likes to eat
Imagine, Vanille is teaching me about wild plants! When we go for a walk I point to areas of grass that I think look appetizing so we are working together. I recommend taking your horse for walks!
Have fun! Enjoy all that nature offers us!