Of valerian and other out-of-control issues

Dark pink valerian flowers against a background of orange marigolds.Before I say anything else, I want to mention that the flowers in the photo at left are pink valerian and orange marigold. When I found the valerian plant at a local nursery I got excited. I’ve discovered that valerian helps me get to sleep and I thought it would be cool to grow my own. The plant supposedly gets 5 feet high and I was excited about that, too.

Except my plant is not growing tall. Is it a dwarf? Or are the growing conditions wrong? According to Wikipedia, valerian flowers are white or pink, and sweetly scented. In the Wiki photos they are a pale pink. Look a that photo. Do those flowerets look pale pink to you? They look kinda purple to me.

I just went out and gave the valerian flowers a sniff. OMG! They stink! Funky nasty. But that means it must be valerian then, because the valerian capsules I take to encourage me to sleep are definitely funky nasty.

Except no. What I planted is NOT medicinal valerian at all.

It turns out that what I got was Valerian Rubra, red valerian, aka devil’s beard (also Jupiter’s beard) – an ornamental with “a strong and somewhat rank scent”. In its favor, another website says it’ll bloom till November and bees love it. But it’s still not edible, medicinal or fragrant.

And isn’t that goof-up perfect icing on the cake that has been my life for the past two months.

Look, I really didn’t forget about blogging. I only had a break in continuity due to circumstances not in my control. Everything kept happening all at once and what was happening wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Truth is, I just did not feel like blogging but that’s because since April everything kept happening all at once.

I had already experienced some… ah… obstacles with the sequel to Dark Green. The only way I could resolve them was to get my editor to get my head out of my butt and point me in the right direction. That was I think January. My plan was to get the rewrite done and get it back to Joel in March. Well, that didn’t happen.

Clue: In mid-March I posted that the rewrite was going well, but then I also posted photos of artwork I’d been playing with. What I didn’t share was that one of my dogs, Rosie, was bleeding from some growths on her back legs and belly, and she was coughing a lot, occasionally spewing some blood. I made an appointment for her to get her looked at, but before then my mare Tess went down and I couldn’t get her up.

Selfie with Tess

Me & Tess 2022

My anxiety level went sky-high. That night I didn’t sleep a wink. Sure Tess was 34 or 35 years old, but I’d had her before she was a twinkle in her parents’ eyes. She was the most beautiful foal we had ever produced, and grew up to be an elegant and beautiful mare – at least that’s what I thought. She was a true sweetheart, as well. Smart, gentle, and willing, though when it came to grooming she was quite the pushy bitch. She had to be groomed first, she had to be groomed every day, and she had to be groomed thoroughly. Those were the clear and firm Tess rules.

My girl Tess had been declining for a while – nothing specific but generally not thriving. Still, I wanted to believe we had more time. That was my heart talking, but my brain knew the truth of it, and so the next morning when it became clear she wasn’t going to get up again, I made the phone call.

And then Tess died on her own.

Rosie in the exam room waiting for surgery

Rosie in the exam room waiting for surgery

Fortunately my neighbor was able to come over and dig the hole for her, so I didn’t have to worry about that when I brought Rosie to the vet the next day. Dr. Ben said Rosie’s neck glands were hugely swollen and that could definitely contribute to her coughing, so he gave her antibiotics. He also said the bleeding lumps should be removed. I kind of figured that would be the case, so another appointment was made for the following week. Hopefully by then the antibiotics would clear up whatever was going on with the lymph nodes.

Keep in mind that it’s a 75 mile drive one way, so each vet visit ends up being a whole day consumed no matter what it’s for.

And don’t forget, I was supposed to be editing my manuscript. I had a few other things that were getting in the way, not all of them heart wrenching or anxiety producing, but they still prevented me from being able to focus on the manuscript. I started having nightmares, something that used to be common for me but that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I recorded one in my journal because after it woke me up I realized it was so typically nightmarish for me that it shouldn’t have even been scary: I dreamed that everyone I loved and even people I simply knew were all going to die horrible deaths unless I saved them – and I knew I could not save them.

At the end of March, with the manuscript at a stall, Rosie went back to the vet for the surgery. Dr. Ben X-rayed her and found a large mass in her lungs. He used the C word. Of course he did. And yet… although I spent too much time waking up at night to make sure she was still breathing, within a week Rosie was, against all expectations, more lively and healthy appearing than she had been in a long time. Go figure.

So now it was April. I had to tell my editor, Joel, that I wasn’t going to get the manuscript to him on schedule. It wasn’t going to be just a few days late, it was going to be several weeks late. But no! With Rosie on the mend (and valerian in my belly when I went to bed at night) I started sleeping the nights through and I’d woke up raring to write. And write, I did. I emailed Joel just two weeks later to tell him the editing was done but he was already involved with another project and wouldn’t be able to get to my manuscript for another week. Of course he was! All right, all right. I used the time to whip my beta readers into looking at this new version, and finally, three weeks into April I sent the MS back to Joel for round two.

I decided to spend the time while Joel was going through the now renamed manuscript on another writing project – reworking my first novel, Evolution Device, which was now out of print. It had been literally years since I had read it, and I was delighted to discover I really liked it. More, in fact, than when I wrote it. I really only needed to make a few minor changes, and then I’d do some illustrations for this second edition. I figured I could get it into publication in a couple weeks.

But of course not.

It’s not like everything was traumatic in my life (even though sometimes it felt that way) but just that everything kept happening all at once. My brother in law arrived from New York right about when I sent my manuscript to Joel. Jeff was tackling my loooong To Do list, including working on my roof. And oh yeah, he would be feeding my critters while Laura and I took our spring quilting retreat. I really wasn’t ready to go away for a week but I figured I could work on Evolution Device when I wasn’t sewing. That didn’t happen. Did I mention that the quilt show would be coming up in two months and I was part of the show committee? And that I had four entries that weren’t finished? One of them included three sort-of-two-dimensional masks that I had to finish up and figure out how to display. One entry was done but needed mounting. I did another at the retreat. The fourth barely started and I had left it at home. The entries were due June 1, so I couldn’t fool around.

Part of the tubing for a rag rug

So obviously I started a new sewing project, a rug made of something like 150+ feet of fabric tube stuffed with batting. It was a delightfully mindless project. I had to sew lots and lots of 2 1/2″ fabric strips into one 150+ ft. strip, and then lay batting on top and sew it all into a long tube. The end result would have made a pretty soccer ball. That ball is still sitting in my project box, by the way. I never did finish it, but I got a week of a kind of meditation out of it. And no Evolution Device editing. Of course not.

Jeff went home after crossing off a huge number of entries on the To Do list. I managed to get through Evolution Device edits but not the illustrations before Joel sent the Dark Green sequel back to me (I’m just going to call it DG2 from now on because I’m not revealing the title until it goes to the printer). The good news was that he liked how I reworked the manuscript. The bad news was I had more work to do. And no time to do it, because I had one week to finish up the four show entries, and then I had to focus on the show itself. I didn’t make the entry deadline (hey, I was only one day late… um…. after the extended deadline).

Also, it stopped snowing and a few days later it became summer. I mean heat. Dry heat. Incredibly hot. I can’t even think when I’m that hot.

I tried to fit editing DG2 in between show meetings and show documents and show decisions. It just did not work. Prepping the show takes too much energy and focus and there was only two and a half weeks to get it all done. I simply gave up on editing and focused on the show.

So now the show is over. It’s a fundraiser for a scholarship for a graduating high school senior. A few dedicated people do a huge amount of work, dozens of businesses sponsor it, and when it’s over it’s a miracle that everyone who worked on it has survived.

Racks waiting for quilts

Setting up the show

Vendors hall moments after the doors opened

Fabric art & show card

My favorite of my four entries: Water Lily

Actually, it’s a miracle I survived. Rosie had improved enough that she went walkabout sometime while I was gone the second day of show prep. I had to head for town the next morning not knowing if I’d ever see her again, but just in case, I left a bucket of water by my car (I park it at the county road when I car pool). Half the water was gone when I got back home that night, but no Rosie. All it took was a treat, though. When I was getting one for Bubz I heard Rosie’s wheezing and the next thing I knew she was walking through the dog door into the house. The dog is old, fat, dying, and can’t breathe, but she can hear the lid coming off the treat container from outside the house. Darned dog didn’t seem to have suffered much from her adventure but I did!

Since last weekend there have been no emergencies. I don’t count the snakes. A couple mornings ago I was surprised when a bull snake practically slithered over my feet while I was scooping horse poop. It was about twice as long as my manure rake is wide, so that made it about 3′ long. It went under a horse trough and I never saw it again. I’ve seen bull snakes climbing the barn wall to raid the birds’ nests in the rafters, but there are still birds feeding chicks so I guess the snake didn’t wipe out the chick population this time.

Then that same afternoon I heard a noise in the kitchen, something knocked over on the counter. I got there just in time to see a huge fat bull snake working its way between the countertop and the wall (it knocked a glass off the windowsill and knocked some vitamin bottles over, too, clumsy thing). It was so fat I thought at one point it would get stuck, but it didn’t. There was nothing to do about it so I went back to work on DG2 (yes, I’m finally working on it again, about halfway done). Anyway, about 20 minutes later I heard something in my studio and there was (presumably) the snake that had gone behind the kitchen counter. I opened a door and gently ushered it out with a broom. I kid you not, it was six feet long. Incredibly impressive as I watched it disappear through the weeds and tall grass of the dog pen.

If you started out wondering why I lean on valerian capsules to get to sleep, and then often take another dose to get back to sleep when I wake up with anxiety in the middle of the night, I expect you understand by now. And you probably also understand why I was so disappointed today to learn that I’m growing the wrong kind of valerian. Not that I have time to harvest valerian root, dry it, and powder it for nasty stinky medicinal use. Still, having what I thought was the real deal growing so happily felt like some kind of reassurance that in a pinch I could pull it up and take a bite.

All right, all right. I admit that everything does not happen all at once. It just happens all the time, dammit. And that’s why I haven’t blogged for two months.

Bindweed in evening light


Tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About lifstrand

Lif Strand began writing fiction when she was a kid. Nobody read her stories. A former Arabian horse breeder and endurance racer, then reporter and freelance white paper writer, Lif lives in a straw bale house off-the-grid and writes fiction once more--or at least whenever she’s not scooping horse poop, taking photos, or playing with fabric art.

2 Responses to Of valerian and other out-of-control issues

  1. DEde says:

    Yikes that’s a lot. What did John say? Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans…

    • lifstrand says:

      John who? You must mean Joel. I can send you his comments – I warn you, though, it’s something like 13 pages long. You really want to see them?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.