Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Digging further into garden plot

  • Print

I learned a lot last year when I decided to try growing some veggies in a small community garden plot. I learned that you don't garden unless you're OK with being the target of a raid or two.

I was raided a few times -- most notably by an elderly woman with a history of garden raiding in the North End. Eyewitnesses say she wore a babushka and was on her way home from church. But that's OK, because I gardened with the mindset of learning how to garden and shared everything I grew anyway.

I learned through experience, considering I had never gardened before in my life. With the advice of friends and family, my garden grew better than I ever expected.

I grew cucumbers, beets, potatoes, beans, dill, mint, Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots and tons of lettuce.

I devised a cheap, environmentally friendly way to deal with my ant problem. A mixture of cornmeal and coffee grinds killed off the little critters and saved my beets. Try it. It works like a charm.

My theory is you'll always eat well if you have a garden -- whether it's in the city or on the rez.

Now it's time to learn more.

My first step this year was to sign up for a seeding workshop at the local community centre. It's free and it's a great way to meet people. This year, I'll have two plots: a new spot for veggies, and the one that was raided last year is going to become my traditional plant and herb garden.

From what I've read over the years, traditional medicines were advanced and well-known remedies a few hundred years ago. I've read accounts of native Americans saving newcomers with scurvy by giving them a tea made with pine needles and other herbs rich in vitamin C.

When I was really young, traditional medicines were always around the house.

I remember my great-grandfather Alphonse would go out in the swamp and into the forest to pick special medicines. He'd dry some herbs and grind others up on his counter in the verandah. One of his favourite medicines was wecase -- or what's known as rat root in many aboriginal communities.

Wecase is a swamp plant, so I won't be planting any, but I still ask around and get some when I need it to help clear up a cold. It tastes awful but it works.

I will plant prairie sage and sweetgrass, which I can use for smudging. I've researched some other medicines that I might try to grow.

I found some notes online about a lecture given in the 1990s by elders Lawrence Smith and the late Garry Raven.

Raven recommended alfalfa tea as a natural remedy to calm the nerves. Alfalfa might be a good plant to try growing -- my teenager and toddler can both be a handful at times.

Red Clover can also be made into a tea and sipped to relax at the end of a hard day.

The elders recommended other wild plants for diseases that seem to plague many of our people.

They said a mixture of wild licorice, water lily and sweet flag is useful for treating diabetes. Nettle tea can be used as a blood thinner and to help with kidney stones. It is believed sweet flag root lowers cholesterol. But like regular medicine, traditional medicines can be dangerous if they aren't used properly.

Traditional medicines are best used with a doctor's and herbalist's advice. It's a fascinating subject, which makes me want to dig a bit further.

I need to find a traditional aboriginal medicine person who might share some knowledge with me. Maybe I'll go ask my great-uncle who lives back home on the reserve.

And maybe this summer, I'll do some traditional plant harvesting of my own -- in my garden and in the wild.

All this research makes me wonder what a difference traditional medicine could make in the lives of people who need their help the most.

 

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

colleen.simard@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 J6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Reimagining Winnipeg as the big city of the future

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012
  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you support Canada's involvement in the fight against Islamic State?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google