Browsing Archives for May 2009

Murder in the Garden

May 7th, 2009

Last Spring, I watched as my boss at the Garden Center, eagerly snatched one very tall, gangly plant from the green house and headed outside to plant this homely plant by the fence in front of the store. I was aghast. We were literally hemmed in on all sides by plants that were drop dead gorgeous. Airy lavender, prickly gay feather, purple fountain grass, harvest moon cone flower, bee balm, butterfly bush, Valerian, asters, mums, daisies, not to mention hundreds of blossoming annuals all clamoring to be admired, fawned over and cherished forever. And my boss… a person who can rattle off the scientific names of every plant within thirty miles… just picked up the plainest, most spindly, most unattractive plant in the entire store, and made sure to plant it before it was too late.

I kept track of the non-descript plant for several weeks wondering what could possibly be it’s magical hold over my boss. It took a while, but as the plant grew to it’s full five foot height it became stunningly beautiful. Fiery red foliage spidered out in all directions. It’s leaves were large and somewhat maple like in shape. It provided a gorgeous backdrop along the fence for the Russian Sage and Summer Wine Ninebark in front of it.

What was the plant?

It was the deadly Castor Bean.

The seeds on this plant are poisonous.

Very poisonous.

As little as one seed can kill a person.

An extremely deadly poison called Ricin is derived from the seeds.

In 1978, an anti-communist political dissident named Georgi Markov was murdered with an umbrella and a dose of Ricin that could fit on the head of a pin. To read this fascinating story click here.

If you plant Castor Bean in your garden you will want to practice the age old garden art of cutting the flowers off before they mature… otherwise known as nipping it in the bud.

Castor bean really is a gorgeous plant, you just have to be careful, watchful and for goodness sake, nip it in the bud!

Digitalis or ‘Foxglove’ is a poisonous biennial that produces a substance that can be both fatal to humans as well as being used as a medicine for patients suffering from heart failure. Symptoms of digitalis poisoning include, anorexia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. A few crazy people use digitalis as a weight loss aid. Some of these same crazy people end up dead. I wonder if getting back into those skinny pants was worth it?

At one point digitalis was also commonly used to control seizure disorders, and to regulate the pulse.

Datura is another poisonous plant that goes by many names. Some of these names sound like they are made up by a crazy blogger hiking through a cow pasture, but they are actually real names. Names like…

jimson weed

ditch weed

stink weed

loco weed

thorn apple

angel’s trumpet

devil’s trumpet

beelzebub’s twinkie

devil’s snare

devil’s seed

mad hatter

crazy tea

zombie cucumber

Jamestown weed


thorn apple

My personal favorite is zombie cucumber.

I think it is highly possible that I have been receiving a miniscule dose of zombie cucumber throughout my entire life.

Datura is a very deadly poison that many cultures have learned to use to induce an altered state.

Here are a few fun little rhymes to help you remember how much you DO NOT WANT to sample a zombie cucumber!

“blind as a bat,

mad as a hatter,

red as a beet,

hot as hell,

dry as a bone,

the bowel and bladder lose their tone,

and the heart runs alone.”

“Can’t see,

can’t spit,

can’t pee,

can’t shit.”

And a sweet little Navajo saying…

“Eat a little, and go to sleep. Eat some more, and have a dream. Eat some more, and don’t wake up.”

People who are under the effects of Datura experience a true trance like state. They do not respond to actual stimuli, and instead respond to things that are not really there. They will often report smoking a cigarette, or holding a lighter, only to then drop the cigarette or lighter and try to find it when they never actually had either item to start with.

This is interesting to me as I go through this same basic routine with my car keys every single day of my life. I am sure the car keys are in the bottom of my purse… I can hear them jangling… I can see the glint of the metal… and yet as I dump out the entire contents of my purse onto the kitchen counter in a frantic frenzy to find my keys… there are no car keys. Once again, I seem to be operating from a true trance like state… seeing things that don’t exist… hearing things that are not there.

Am I on Datura?

Datura tends to create a living dream-like state. The user often communicates with people that are either dead or miles away.

I often talk to myself.. and have been known to have pretend interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, and Barbara Walters…

Am I on Datura?

Poisoning from Datura most often occurs because it can take up to 13 hours before it enters the brain and causes an out of body experience. As a result, people keep taking more and more Datura in an attempt to create a high.

I find that I do the same with toasted almond fudge ice cream.

Am I on Datura?

In 1676 a strange little incident occurred in Jamestown Virginia. Some soldiers were sent to quell ‘Bacon’s Rebellion”. The soldiers gathered some ‘greens’ to make a ‘boiled salad’. They ate their fill and eleven days later they finally returned to their senses…

Here is an excerpt about the event..

The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call’d) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather’d very young for a boil’d salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves — though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed. – The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705

You might think it is crazy to purposefully plant poisonous plants (say that five times fast) however if you consult a list of poisonous flowers, I am sure you will discover that you have poison in abundance growing right under your very feet. Humans figured out a long time ago which plants were edible and which to avoid putting in their boiled salad. And then they stopped eating boiled salad all together. Because even if it wasn’t poisonous, it still tasted pretty bad.

The Country Doctor took all four boys on the annual ‘man camp’ this past weekend. This is a get together where all the Country Doctor’s brothers, brother-in-laws, and a varied assortment of friends take all their kids to a centrally located campground and… well… they … camp.

No adult women are allowed.

I know… I know… It is a very sad thing and it makes me feel both deprived of my children’s presence, and mercilessly discriminated against for being a female.


While they were gone, I planted potatoes, lettuce, spinach, and onions in my garden. I worked on this insane new blog. I drank far too many glasses of wine with a few of my girlfriends… which I decided to call woman camp… and woman camp ended long before anyone had to cook a meal over a campfire, set up a tent, sleep on the ground, or use a campground toilet.

I also got enough take-out chinese food to sustain myself for two days.

…and I watched… or attempted to watch… three different movies.

One of them was Lost in Austen.

I had been hearing about this movie every day for months from Melissa (who is the boss of me) at work. Melissa can talk me under the table when it comes to classic movies, great books, and Jane Austen. The girl knows her Austen… backwards and forwards… she makes me feel like an imbecile, a phony, a wannabe, a fraud and a fake, when it comes to Jane Austen… and because of her, I have been trying to find ‘Lost in Austen’ via Net Flicks for weeks! Finally, I found it in a local movie rental place and I almost danced a jig… right there… in the far right aisle of Hastings!

But I held back…

And instead I celebrated with an extra large box of hot tamales.

Which is almost the same thing.

Lost in Austen is a hilarious story and a fun salute to Jane. If you are an Austen fan you will love it. If you don’t know what I am talking about when I utter the mystical cantation… Jane Austen… your life is an empty hole in the dirt and you need to go out and get yourself some Mansfield Park… right now… no… now!… NOW!

The best part of the movie is when Amanda Price says to Mister Darcy…

“Will you do something for me?”

And I think we all know what comes next…

And no… this is not a baptism…

This is Mr. Darcy in the white shirt in the lake.

It only looks like a baptism because it is one of the most holy moments in all of literature.

Except it never actually occurred in literature.

It only occurred in the movie…

This movie.

The most holy of all movies ever made.

Because Colin Firth…

And Mr. Darcy…

Created a perfection that rarely exists on this earth.

But this Lost in Austen scene will do.

Yes… I think so.

I think it will do just fine.

The Lost in Austen Mr. Darcy Lake Scene

The Colin Firth Mr. Darcy Lake Scene

My eldest son’s face has been changing at the speed of light lately.  Every time I look at him I swear, he looks drastically different.  Two months ago, I was completely obsessed by his nose.  

“Where is that nose coming from?”  I asked him.

“Whose nose is that?” I queried.

“Where did you get that nose?” I badgered him endlessly.

“Is it your dad’s nose?  Is it my dad’s nose?  Is it a Bishop nose, a Heitschmidt nose, a Hogan nose…?”

My son did not answer any of my questions.


He just rolled his eyes, looked at me with utter disdain, and asked me if we had any food in the house.


Now I have moved on to his jaw.

Every morning I look at his jaw and I swear it is different than it was the day before… it is wider… it is fuller… it is thicker…





I stare at his nose.  





I stare at his jaw.




Who is this kid?  


This little boy?  


My first born baby.


Who is this boy with the nose… and the jaw… and the shoulders…and the deep voice…


and the height!


Good Lord… the height! 


He is as tall as me now. 


Who is this tall kid with the nose, the jaw, and the deep voice?






I hardly recognize my own tiny, little, baby boy anymore!