Dream Symbols: What They Mean to You: Bees





The heat brings me back to the river. Today a tiny bee insisted on keeping me company. It hung around for quite a while. It never landed or stung; just hovered and buzzed near me. She got me thinking about a recent in-service I attended. The presenter reminded me that here in the US, we have 200+ native species of bees. Many are solitary, living near their plant host. Some are big, like the bumble bee. The honeybee is imported and not considered native to the US and can be quite aggressive in some situations towards our native bees.

I looked around the space where I sat and could not see any obvious plant she might be connected to. I moved my chair anyway. She got me thinking about the variety of her species and their dedicated work of pollination, which in turn helps bring us food, clothing, and other goods.

When I awaken in the morning with a dream that has my attention, I first ask: does this relate to my everyday life? Am I being warned about something? Am I uncomfortable enough with the dream to pay attention to some issue in my everyday life? If the immediate answer is no and I do not feel any immediate relationship or message on these levels, then I look at the dreams more carefully and symbolically.

So, I begin with: what do bees mean to me? And what do I know about bees? What type of bee appeared in my daydream time? What was it doing? How did the bee relate to me? The birds were quiet today. It’s the tiny bee that got my attention.

For me, bees symbolize unity, cooperative living, and working.  They seem to work for the good of the whole. Honeybees will leave a hive if they are threatened by disease, which can indicate an area’s environmental quality.  Honey and propolis, two honeybee products, are antifungal, antibiotic, and anti-microbial and play a role in medicine, cosmetics, skincare, and health.

According to Ted Andrews in Animal Speak, bees were associated with accomplishing the impossible. The ancients revered the bee for its wisdom or as a symbol of wisdom. Honey represents the sweetness of life.

However, pollinators are more than just honeybees. The Polliantor.org site says this:

    • “More than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees.
    • In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.
    • Monarch butterflies have declined by 90% in the last 20 years.
    • 25% of bumble bee species are thought to be in serious decline.”

I found this great offer from the pollinator.org site. They have planting guides for all types of ecoregional climates. I happen to be in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest area. The guides are colorful, with great tables and resource information. I highly recommend them.

What can we do today?

  1. Donate to your favorite nature organization. Support their work. Pick a local one, like a land trust, and one national. Spikenard Farm and Honey Bee Sanctuary, and Pollinator.org rely on donations to continue their great work.
  2. The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the NAPPC (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign)National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.”
  3. Buy Heirloom and organic seeds. There are so many great companies, often local, such as Truelove Seeds, to buy from and support.
  4. Plant pollinator-friendly plants; add more if you can.
  5. Consider replacing lawns with more natural foliage that supports our pollinators. At the Garden’s Gate has a practical chapter on how to do so.
  6. Start a seed-saving bank at your local library.
  7. Learn about one new beneficial bug. Learn to properly identify its habitat, how it mates, what it needs for food, and where it fits in with its local ecosystem.

What do bees mean to you? This tiny little bee reminded too of the many conservation efforts going on today. She reminded me that messages come in tiny ways to get us to pay attention. And synchronistically, I was asked to be on a committee where I get to help work with the land, add wildflowers and other native species creating a safe habitat for critters and folks alike. This project will be a community effort. I did not know this on Saturday while at the river but was asked on Sunday to help out: definitely a group effort. Pretty cool, right?

Sweet dreaming. Judith


Spring Garden Planning: Edible Flowers

For most gardeners, spring planning is just about done. Seeds have been purchased and started. Snow comes, soon melts, spring’s official beginning is around the corner, and birds have begun their mating songs.

Years ago I attended an herb class at a local herb farm. The owner prepared a beautiful glass urn of sun tea. The urn was filled with a variety of flowers, violets, johnny jump-ups, roses, lavender, herb blossoms, and more. This tea was refreshing. I was impressed and have not forgotten this experience.

Recently, I came across a new book from Rosalind Creasy, The Edible Flower Garden. Her cover and photography hooked my curiosity as the subject of edible flowers is limited. Rosalind is a well-known author and respected organic gardener. It is a stunning work with gorgeous photography that highlights the beauty of flowers and shows off culinary delights using flowers in a variety of ways. She has researched claims of edibles and addresses some of which are myths, such as stock. History shows it may have been eaten in times of famine but no other time. Therefore, stock is not on her list.

Edible Flowers Idea

I use blossoms in quiches. Small amounts of wild strawberry flowers when in bloom, rose petals, lavender. So many wild and common flowers are edible like the violet leaves pictured above. In my wild food classes, we used echinacea and dandelion blossoms, squash blossoms, and nasturtiums, for example. It all created a lovely palette for the eye in recipes as well as provided a variety of tastes. They inspire our creative juices, fill our senses with texture, color, and form. They are the stuff of poetry and stories. Yet in my travels, I have found folks a bit leery of using flowers in food.

4 Tips To Remember About Edible Flowers

  1. Flowers should never be used as food from stores. Store-bought flowers often come into our country from overseas and are chemically treated.
  2. Organic gardens, whether traditional landscapes or vegetable-based, do not have that concern. If you do not have a garden but a neighbor does, please ask questions. Make sure they are organic.
  3. If you have planters and need to give your plants extra food to maintain growth, please read labels carefully.
  4. Always check with a reliable source before picking or tasting anything you are not familiar with. For example, most mushrooms are poisonous. Pokeberry flowers and berries are not edible. Daffodils are not edible.

Title: The Edible Flower Garden
Author: Rosalind Creasy


What I like: Rosalind gives the reader an encyclopedia of flowers that are edible. Pictures are crisp and help to easily identify a flower accompanied by how to grow and how to prepare sections. She then provides us with photographs and recipes that are simply elegant. She rounds out her book with appendixes on planting and maintenance, pest and disease control. She has suggestions for nontoxic management if pests show up. Lastly, she has a well-organized section on seed sources.

I recently spoke to a library about the benefits of herb teas. The dried flowers contained in the herb blends were a hit. Folks who love to garden often have no idea that many common plants are edible. And that some of these flowers and plants contribute nourishment. Nourishment, provided from a variety of plant constituents, such as vitamins A, B, C, and calcium, all support our biology.

For those of you who are curious about edible flowers I highly recommend this book.

Enjoy. Judith

Red Raspberries: A sweet treat in your own back yard

rasberry, rasberriesBrambles, a thorny understory woody shrub that can take over land untended and challenge those of us who attempt to carve a space to plant, live and keep a yard in some semblance of order. Michael Pollan reminds us in his book, “Second Nature” “nothing (in nature) sits still well maybe for just a brief moment.” I think of the brambles that insist on filling in any space unused and once in the yard can be cut back but rarely are they gone for good. Brambles are also a wild life habitat providing refuge for many species.

Ideas to Serve Raspberries

This is a good thing as the berries are one of my favorite summertime treats.

  • Dry some of the berries I harvest for winter use.
  • Freeze them.
  • Serve as a breakfast treat on a cold winters morning when the chill reminds me that spring is far away.

If you have brambles at the edges of your property you can easily distinguish the red raspberry from the blackberry: look at the underside of the leaves. Red raspberry leaves have a silver green underside whereas blackberries do not.

Raspberry Berry Details

Name: Red Raspberry: Rubus idaeus (Rosaceae family)
Parts Used: leaves and fruit, perennial
Varieties: Rubus idaeus is considered the cultivated variety; Rubus strigosus is considered the wild variety.
Where found: temperate climates as these berries need a period of cold in order to flower

Elderberry: What to Know


Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, also known as the European Elder

What is Elderberry?

Elderberry is a fruit that comes from the elderberry bush, a flowering plant in the Adoxaceae family. The bush produces clusters of small, blue-black berries that are used for food and medicinal purposes.

Where Does Elderberry Come From?

Elderberry bushes are native to Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Some common varieties include European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and Blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea). The berries have been harvested from the wild for centuries. Today elderberries are also commercially grown on farms for fruit production.

Where Does Elderberry Grow?

Elderberry bushes thrive in damp, fertile soils across temperate regions. They are commonly found growing along streams, ditches, and the edges of farms and forests. Elderberry will grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10. The plants tolerate partial shade but produce best in full sun locations.

What Does Elderberry Look Like?

Elderberry bushes can grow up to 10 feet tall. The leaves are opposite, compound and have 5-11 leaflets with toothed edges. The flowers are small with five white petals. The berries grow in drooping clusters, ripening from green to deep purple-black in late summer. Each berry is about 1/4 inch in diameter.

What is Elderberry Good For?

Elderberries have long been used for food and folk medicine. The berries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They are often processed into jams, jellies, syrups, candies and cordials. Elderberry is also believed to have anti-viral and immune-boosting properties that may help fight colds and flu. More research is still needed.

Is Elderberry Safe to Eat?

Properly cooked elderberries are safe to eat. However, raw or unripe berries can contain a cyanide-producing toxic compound and should not be consumed. Elderberries should always be cooked thoroughly before eating. The seeds and stems also contain traces of cyanide and should be removed.

Where Can I Buy Elderberry?

Elderberries can be purchased fresh, dried, frozen, or processed into a variety of products. Look for elderberries, elderberry syrups and extracts at natural food stores and online. When buying pre-made products, read the labels carefully and choose reputable brands. Elderberry bushes and plants are also available from nurseries to grow your own berries.

Enjoy your day. Judith







How to Tell the Difference Between Elderberry and Pokeweed

Elderberry vs Pokeweed

You can figure out the difference between Elderberry vs Pokeweed by looking at a few of the visible characteristics of each which I’ll detail here.

A student of mine recently brought in a branch with purple berries. I am familiar with Pokeweed but not elderberry in the wild. It is so important to double and triple check plant ID’s when in the woods. If you are not sure, please don’t eat them and be careful with children too.

What do Elderberries look like?

elderberry, what do elderberries look like


Elderberry: Sambucus nigra I have included pictures of an elderberry look alike, Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana.  Though the flowers are different, the purple berry and red stems can be easily confused with elderberry. The berries of pokeweed are NOT edible and can cause a very bad stomach ache and should not be eaten be children. The young shoots in early spring, 6” tall or less can be eaten as a pot herb. Foraged greens like pokeweed need to be boiled two or three times to make the green palatable. Pokeweed is typically shorter than elderberry, easily bent and can be invasive. I always recommend folks to check 3-5 field guides when identifying a plant and to check with someone who can verify the plant before consuming.


What is Pokeweed?

Pokeweed, what does pokeweed look like


Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is easily found in our forests and wooded areas is the most common of the plants that look like elderberry. It too likes to hang out at the forest edges. The berries have shorter stems, are closely attached to the main  stem and again are not edible. They are used however to make a natural dye. Naturopathic physicians use the root of pokeweed in their practices. Because it is potent you will not find poke root easily in most health food stores.






The flowers of both elderberry and pokeweed are white in the early spring but are very different. Here is a photo of the elderberry flower to your left and pokeweed on your right.

elderberry flower

Elderberry flower

pokeweed flower

Pokeweed Flower

Two plants that look alike can easy be mixed up. Spring is a good time to test your knowledge of identifying these two flowering shrubs, small trees.

In the meantime, consider elderberry for your home medicine chest. Amazon has a wide assortment of options for both adults and kids.

MediMindful Moment: Meet Nigel Palmer

In this episode of Cloud 9 Online’s MediMindful Moment Podcast, co-hosts Judith Dreyer, Jeff Nelder, and Henry Edinger interview Nigel Palmer, the Director, and Curriculum Developer for Sustainable Regenerative Gardening at The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition. Nigel talks about his expertise in traditional gardening and why the garden is a quintessential mindfulness place.

Episode Highlights:

  • Nigel shares a little background about his work and his career, as an author. (1:18)
  • Nigel mentions his book entitled, The Regenerative Growers Guide To Garden Amendments. (2:03)
  • Nigel leads the mindful moment exercise. (3:53)
  • Nigel shares some of his practices when feeding his plants. (4:04)
  • Does Nigel see himself with purposeful energy into the present moment while gardening? (7:12)
  • How does the whole notion of impermanence play a role in traditional gardening? (9:09)
  • Nigel mentions one of the most amazing things about nature. (12:53)
  • Nigel shares his gardening program at The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition. (20:52)
  • Nigel shares a couple of mindfulness tips in the garden and mindfulness tips in life. (24:59)

Key Quotes:

  • “It’s a lovely time to watch the clouds go by, to see the rustle of the wind in the trees. Or notice some birds that are going through their antics on the side of the lawn. Gardening is a quintessential mindless mindfulness exercise.” – Nigel Palmer
  • “We’re all in the flow of the universe, you can either participate or not. And we all make decisions as to how we spend our time, and what we do with our time. And we can either ignore the flow of the universe, we can go against the flow of the universe, or we could be part of it.” – Nigel Palmer
  • “You don’t need an amazing skill set. You don’t need all this infrastructure or these ideas, but what you need to do is go out into the garden and put your toes in there and put a seed in, it won’t grow unless you plant it, right? So, once you start planting these things, all of these things unravel.” – Nigel Palmer

Resources Mentioned: