new skin

I sit here with a chamomile tea and munching sweet anise biscuits, feeling a little relieved. I've reached a decision about something that's been bugging me for weeks. Blogging is one of those things I believe should evolve, change and reflect the moment in time, and it should above all be enjoyable. But I've become lazy and unenthusiastic, I've been struggling to update both. There is a need for the old, dull skin to be shed for a brighter and more vibrant one. Life is rarely compartmentalised, the strands interweave, cross-connect and the boundaries blur. At this moment, I'm a final exam away from finishing my studies. My gardening is for now my muse and I have little time for work in my studio. I still take my pictures with film cameras, still scribble in my sketchbooks and notebooks but the intensity of slapping around with paint, ink, dye and plaster hasn't been happening. I've decided that rather than struggle - and it has been a struggle - to keep two separate blogs, I will trace my meandering flow to a confluence and schmoosh them both together. Where this river flows at least it's towards the ocean.
Black-eyed Angel is reborn. From now on will be my one place to talk about everything as I find it, see it, feel it, touch it and think it.

Oh, and when the morning comes
We will step outside
We will not find another man in sight
We like the newness, the newness of all
That has grown in our garden
Struggling for so long

{I am still continuing La Coumeille on tumblr}



I'm picking up where I left off here. I suppose the jig is up, I am indeed on an 'art' hiatus. Voluntary or involuntary I'm not quite sure, but I often fall in and out of love with my work and right now I'm just not feeling it.
Let's just say that sometimes life takes you off in certain directions and in my experience it's best to go with the flow. My herbal medicine/herb garden are such an immersive project, both exciting and exhausting me. Nearing the end of my studies now I suppose I should perhaps think about direction. Also, did I tell you my husband had another accident
For now, I take photographs when I feel like it. That's good enough for me. Remember the thing I had where I picked up old cameras with exposed and undeveloped films still inside that I then process? Yup, I still keep a look out for them and I found a Pentax PC35 not so long ago. More ghosts of the past revealing themselves. I'm happy to liberate them yet I feel quite sad too, for exactly what I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps I can but I can't put it into words.


any other day

Chance is a strange thing. We plan, we predict, we hope and sometimes we dread what we think the future, whether near or far, holds for us. Two weeks ago I woke up one morning like any other, birdsong is my alarm along with an impatient set of four black legs kneading my stomach and purring. I open my eyes and two green, haughty ones stare back at me, I tip my head back and see a small square wash of pale blue sky. Comfortable, easy, normal morning. All the things I know to be true will remain unchanged today because I haven't planned it that way, right? 
I didn't expect my husband to have a fall that day. I had no way of knowing when he left for work, to do what he has done for years, that a day that started out just fine would end with him in a hospital, having a plate put into his shin and screws in his ankle. Leg encased in resin and injected daily for the next 6 weeks. The man who is full of life, healthy and active forced to an armchair, exhausted by walking down to the garden on his sticks.
It's in my nature to want to make everyone feel better, to care deeply. If only I had a wand. "Expecto Patroooonum!" and they are protected from harm. But no.
We take each day as it comes. There is a natural downshifting around here, time has become non-linear ~ a wibbly-wobbly ball if you will and routines have flown out of the window along with my own work. I have been writing this post for well over a week, I wanted to tell you about the plants I've been seeking to support his recovery but every time I sit down I write a couple of sentences and then have to leave. I have carefully asked the questions and sought the answers. I'm so new to herbal medicine and have no wish to play russian roulette with his health. Contraindications are a scary business and I have limited time in the day to do this work and even less to photograph and write about it.
stinging nettle
I have been collecting horsetail, plantain, violets, dandelions and above all nettles. Nettles are mineral and vitamin dense, including Vitamin A, B complex and C, flavonoids, calcium, potassium, magnesium, silica, iodine and iron. 
Anti-histamine, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and vulnerary, nettles can treat many complaints such as allergies, arthritis, oedema, chronic fatigue, bleeding and eczema. Nettle helps build healthy blood cells, cleanses the blood and provides a tonic for the kidneys, lymphatic system, gall bladder and liver.
The silica is beneficial to the healing of the bones, damaged tissue and bruising; the diuretic action helps eliminate waste and stop his organs from accumulating too much of the toxins from his medications, and the high nutritive content means he's giving his immune system a supporting blast off to recovery. I'm writing notes on a couple of nettle remedies. I have them scrawled in my dog-eared notebook and I have even taken some photographs and they will make it here very soon. Have a beautiful day, live it well.



Last week Milla and I took a hike along a new-to-us trail. We walked through meadows dotted with soft yellow oxlips until a knee-busting climb bought us to the oddest of landscapes - a northwest steep slope exposed to harsh, raw winds. The plants there desperately cling on to any dribble of moisture they get, the rock is so close to the surface that any soakings they get tumble straight down the hillside. 

It's a constant battle for survival. Only the pine trees tenaciously cling on, even the poor little shrews can't manage that. Juniper, gorse, lavender and rosemary have all turned shades of rust, yellowed greens and burnt earth tinted with a purple hue, much like a phantasmagorical Wild West; I'm half expecting to be knocked over by cowboys twirling lassos above their heads, digging in their spurs as they veer round the scrubland. Just like those galloping on my brother's pyjamas all those years ago.


true blue

This morning I was again up with the lark, pottering around the garden with my cup of tea. It's that time of year when you just need everything to be sprouting, like, yesterday and it's all so frustratingly slow! But it does so gladden my heart to see the little self-seeds doing their thing. Borage with their tiny fine bristles, remind me a little of hairy spiders' legs and sweet little violets already carpeting the gravel and hiding modestly under the bushes...

Now I have a question, well two actually to ask you. Does this look like woad to you? Last year I sowed some seeds but I believed all the seedlings had got munched by snails. I’ve checked and double checked all the photographs I can find of young woad plants and I’m pretty sure this is it. Can you confirm or deny? If it is indeed woad it's caught me on the hop because apparently it has to be used before it flowers. So next question, can you freeze the leaves to make dye later? I'm still a bit of a nitwit with all this gardening know-how...


the rite of spring

The work in the garden has been at full steam, the warmth of the golden sun on my back, stopping to straighten up the cricks and gaze at the blue sky and the emerging vivid shades of greens piercing across the hills makes outside work a pleasure. I've also been sowing, swapping, stratifying and nicking seeds willy-nilly. Trouble is, although I'm living very much in the moment, none of this looks much like progress to the onlooker and certainly not making for very aesthetically charged photography. So my reason for failing to tell you what's going on is, in my book, valid.
Indoors, I've been researching, experimenting and developing my own remedies and medicines, trying to learn as much as I can as each new plant emerges. But first I must tell you about huile des quatre voleurs or four thieves oil. The authentic version originated in the 1630 Toulouse plague. Much changed through the centuries, this is the real McCoy, in as much as legend can be a real McCoy. And according to that legend, they resisted infection by rubbing themselves with olive oil infused with thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender gathered from the garrigue. So like those naughty Toulouse corpse-robbers I too went up into the hills and collected the wild herbs (above), chopped them up and infused them in olive oil for a week. Antiviral, antibacterial and anti-infectious. It stimulates the immune system, circulation and respiratory system, protecting against colds and flu. It can be used externally as a muscle rub on sore, pulled or aching muscles. Applied neat to insect bites, stings etc. Use as a hair pre-wash treatment for a dry, itchy scalp or dandruff. You can also have as a dressing for salad, pasta or veggies.

The hedgerows right now are ablaze with almond, wild plum and wild cherry blossoms. A-buzzing with bees, a-chirruping with birds and filling the warm air with their fragrance as I walk along the track. Mirabelle plum blossom seems to be everywhere here, once the golden fruits arrive it's a mad scramble to get enough of them before they soften and rot. But first their tiny blossoms are especially sweet and I made some into a moisturising, calming and cooling hydrosol. 
So excited by their discovery I've dried them for adding to tea and used them as a base for a massage balm that I rib-ticklingly call Rite of Spring, hoho. Periwinkle and pine needle, mint leaves and flowers added. Periwinkle relieves tension, clears the mind and regulates hormones. It also reduces bruises, varicose veins and grazes. But you know this already if you've been paying attention. Pine needles are rich in both vitamin C and vitamin A and packed full of antioxidants. The mirabelle blossom is purifying and relieves cramp. Mint will also relax, uplift and purify, and is anti-inflammatory and analgesic. A massage with this at the end of a hard day is quite frankly, perfect. 
Yes indeed. Tincturing here, syrup-making there, it's all kicking off in my kitchen. So much so, I think I'll have to re-do it to make provision, more worktops and storage. I'm also thinking that it might be time to invest some money in buying bottles, sprays and jars rather than using recycled bits and bobs. It's such a chore to scrub, sterilise and de-label ~ Oh how I hate de-labelling! First world problems, people.