Shawnee News-Star Sunday Oct 15th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg Monarchs The past two weeks Monarchs have been fluttering south; never in great numbers but consistently coming through.   Decades ago I stood on top of the ridge near the Kerr Mansion outside of Poteau, OK and watched in amazement as hundreds and hundreds of Monarchs flew [...]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Oct 15th 2017

Flyby of stunt aircraft at the Shawnee Airport.

Becky Emerson Carlberg


The past two weeks Monarchs have been fluttering south; never in great numbers but consistently coming through.   Decades ago I stood on top of the ridge near the Kerr Mansion outside of Poteau, OK and watched in amazement as hundreds and hundreds of Monarchs flew low across the hilltops.   It was spectacular.   I have never seen the butterflies in such abundance since.

Saturday, October 7th, was a busy day. The Master Gardeners took a field trip to the OSU Botanic Garden to admire the current plants in fall splendor.   A visit to Bustani Plant Farm was next on their agenda.   It was the last day of its fall season.   No better time than now to stock up on plants for next year.   Plants have months to establish a more extensive root system (yes, the roots do grow during winter) and are better able to tolerate our extreme springs and summer.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles were happening all over Shawnee.   The weather was beautiful, the sky a cloudless blue and the airplanes happily zoomed over our heads.   The Russian MiG, a shiny twin engine WW2 fighter, shot high and low, the bright colored Navy and more subdued Air Force Training planes cruised in circles and the stunt planes flew in formation, often releasing trails of white smoke. How can they do that?   Turns out biodegradable paraffin-based oil is pumped right onto the hot exhaust nozzles and white smoke is instantaneously produced.   Cool.   The stunt planes waggled their wings on their final fly-by as they headed for home.

Static and active displays were set up at the old Shawnee Depot. Built in 1904, this was a working Santa Fe Depot until 1973.   Renovations were begun on the depot in the mid 1980's and the depot was reopened as a museum in 2003.   Within spitting distance is being constructed the new 12,572 square foot Pottawatomie County Museum that will house a full kitchen, genealogy center and large conference room.

Banting Greyhound Steam Tractor

If you wanted to see a gunfight, check the board set up at the front of the depot for performance times and show up to watch the show. The wood and metal workers, rock and gem club, the animal pelt seller and sarsaparilla bar were more docile and quiet, but equally interesting.   Six smaller tractors could have equaled the enormous steam tractor parked on a flatbed.   The Greyhound Steam Tractor, a heavyweight at over 20,000 pounds, was assembled by the Banting Manufacturing Company in Toledo, Ohio nearly 100 years ago.   Across the street were parked antique cars and their owners.   The beige and white Nash Metropolitan (in production from 1953-1961) was a tiny subcompact with the barest of essentials, uncomplicated yet so appealing.

My favorite place was the prairie pharmacy aptly named Agape Apothecary.   'Welcome to the Walgreens of the prairie' Chrystal Pingleton said, spreading her arms wide to invite us to look at her tables of preserved herbs, oils, tinctures, handy dandy salves, goat milk soaps (from her own goats) and other wild-crafted as well as non GMO organic ingredients.   Years of study, research and work earned Chrystal double certification as Master Herbalist and Natural Health Consultant (MH NHC).   She chose the name Agape because this Greek word means the highest form of love.     Agape Apothecary is located in Newalla, OK.

Six foot tall Mullein plant

I have only read about herbalists.   Oklahoma has a short supply of these knowledgeable people.   Chrystal took off the lid of a large glass jar filled with fuzzy dried plant material and offered a leaf for us to touch.   It was soft, pliable and had been picked from the mullein plant.     Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)is prized by herbalists for its medicinal properties.   Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, it came to North America in the 1700's.  Despite the great size and enormous fuzzy rosette of large leaves at ground level, this plant poses little problem of becoming invasive.   Its competitive skills are limited, tilling kills the plant and the seeds need bare soil to germinate.   Common mullein is biennial and requires two years to send up its thick stem with bright yellow flowers. In the western part of the US, mullein has been referred to as 'cowboy toilet paper.'   The impressive plant has been called Aaron's Rod, a tribute to the stave with miraculous powers carried by Moses' brother Aaron. Pulmonary troubles especially related to coughing, bronchitis and sore throats respond to mullein's magic. Teas from the leaves, poultices, and oils from the flowers are used to combat earaches, headaches, skin problems and a variety of ailments.   The flowers provide yellow and green dyes, the stem dipped in suet or wax makes a good torch, and even the dried leaves have been put into shoes for cushions.   What a plant.

Red Amaranth

Sunday morning I prepared a pot of hot cooked amaranth.   The herbalist would have approved. A package of organic whole grain Amaranth was on sale at the health food store, and I had never actually eaten amaranth seeds. The cereal was described as having a sweet nutty flavor and a good source of protein and fiber.   Along with buckwheat and quinoa, Amaranth is a complete protein.   How could one go wrong?  Hours later, I came to the conclusion that each tiny Amaranth seed had the explosive power of one Brussel sprout.

There are Amaranth lovers and Amaranth haters.   Amaranth haters know the leaves contain oxalic acid and the plant stores nitrogen.   Fondly known as Redroot Pigweed, Amaranth is cursed and attempts to eliminate it from cotton or other crops and flower beds have proven to be difficult.   It has developed resistance to certain herbicides.   Hey, you should not be using herbicides anyway; think of the pollinators.

For all the Amaranth lovers:   Amaranth has lysine.   I get cold sores and the amino acid lysine works to control and prevent the painful mouth ulcers.   The Aztecs loved Amaranth and popped Amaranth is still eaten in Mexico.   Amaranth has joined the homebrews and been fermented into ales and beers.   There are those people who will ferment almost anything and pour it into bottles.   The Amaranth plant is able to remove lead from soil, as can its relative spinach.   Amaranth attracts leafminers, breaks up hard soils and is actually cultivated by some farmers for its nutritional value.   The Amaranth seed market is growing, rather explosively from my point of view.

So if you want to see Amaranth (redroot pigweed) growing in the wild, check out railroad tracks and edges of fields.   This cosmopolitan plant that bears billions of seeds crops up everywhere. It will raise you up.