An herb lady once told me, "I used to think anybody who grew flowers in their garden was wasting space. Now I don't grow food any more—just herbs, mostly the herbs I use in my work. Herbs are ornamental, fragrant, and a pleasure to use." So herbs can be a necessity of life, depending on your convictions. For sure they're a pleasant luxury, a comfort so natural to country living that I'm including them in this book.

"Herbs" are the leaves or other parts of aromatic plants grown in the temperate zone. "Spices" are the stems, leaves, roots, seeds, flowers, buds, or bark of aromatic plants grown in the tropics. Here are some of the possible directions for your collection:

• Culinary herbs: basil, bay leaf, caraway, chives, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon

• Stronger seasoning herbs: capers, dandelion, garlic, horseradish, hot pepper, mustard, nasturtium

• Decorative herbs: bergamot, lovage, rose, rosemary, tansy

• Scented herbs: chamomile, scented geranium, lavender, marigold, mint, patchouli, rose, rue, thyme

• Medicinal herbs: anise, hore-hound, hyssop, feverfew

• Herbs that are natural pesticides: pennyroyal, pyre thrum

• Herbs that thrive in containers: garlic, parsley, thyme, tarragon, maijoram, oregano, chives, mint, winter savory, geranium, bay leaf

• Edible flowers: marigold, lemon mint, borage, nasturtium, bean, chrysanthemum, cucumber, rose, squash, violet You can also grow herbs for dyeing, making cosmetics, or attracting bees that make exotic flavors of honey.

Some people doctor with herbs, but not all herbs are as safe or effective as you might think. If you wish you knew what has been scientifically verified about healing herbs, what's hocus, and what's dangerous, read The New Honest Herbal (especially the "Remedies" section by Dr. Varro E. Tyler, a plant drug specialist at Purdue University).

Healthwise, I recommend a Seventh-Day Adventist doctor as providing the best of both worlds. On one visit to my Adventist doctor, Dr. Drury, when I was full of mysterious problems, he first wrote me a couple of prescriptions, then gave me some marital advice, and finally prayed for me. Now that's doctoring! The gist of his advice was that I should quit trying to write this book. He has continued to offer that same advice at every visit. I almost always throw away his paper prescriptions (I just want to hear what he thinks, not get pills) and, as you see, I didn't obey his advice about the book, so any health problems I end up with are no fault of his! Fact is, though, I feel great.

Dr. Drury was, I think, the last of the old-time country doctors. If you wanted to give birth in his office examining room with only him and his wife (a nurse) to help, he'd let you.

Then he'd move you and baby to a waiting room. Some of his waiting rooms had real beds, so sick people or women who'd just given birth could be genuinely comfortable. My daughter Esther was born that way about 2:30am (she was my seventh). After Dr. Drury got her and me all fixed up, he and his wife went back to their home, just a little way up the road. We stayed there for a while, my husband Mike sleeping on one bed in the room, precious baby Esther and me on the other. Mike woke up at about 6:00am and said, "Well, are you ready to go home?" I answered, "Yes." We took our new baby, let ourselves out the back door of the silent building, got in our pickup (which was parked out back), and drove home. We loved it— no hospital bill, no hassle! And the expertise of a doctor who had delivered hundreds of babies available if needed.

Dr. Drury had delivered most of the local babies for thirty-some years when the insurance company forced him to quit. Doc explained that they'd made a new rule: the more babies a doctor had delivered (so the more experience he had and the more women trusted him, went to him for their birthings, and told other women about him), the higher his insurance rates soared. Dr. Drury had delivered so many babies that his rates became absolutely unaffordable. He had to start telling women to go to a young city doc who had only delivered a few and thus could afford insurance.

Continue reading here: Herbs

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