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By Kathy Van Mullekom, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) (TNS)

In the 17th- and 18th-century garden, herbs were an important part of the vegetable plot, growing side-by-side with peas, carrots and lettuces, and then harvested and used in cooking, dye and soap making and herbal medicine.

Today those crops are grown in demonstration raised beds at Virginia’s Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center, where historical interpreters do the same as part of the living-history museum experience for visitors.

It goes to show that history often repeats itself — today’s raised-bed vegetable patches are again popular and practical for small-space, easy-access gardening. Even many of the crops are the same.

For home gardens, Jamestown Settlement historical interpreter Pat Leccadito recommends parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm, which colonists also favored. All of these can be grown indoors in pots as well as outdoors, she adds.

“The majority of vegetables and herbs grown in the 17th century are grown today,” she says.

“Kitchen herbs grown in England were cultivated in Virginia.”

In fact, an advertisement from the Virginia Gazette newspaper dated October 22, 1772, according to interpreters at Yorktown, states, “Imported in the last ships from Britain, and to be sold by the subscriber at Norfolk, a large and complete assortment of garden seeds, also tools; he likewise furnishes plants and herbs of all kinds in their respective seasons.”

Visitors are always welcome to explore the gardens and talk with historical interpreters, according to Debby Padgett, spokeswoman for the two historical sites. Garden-themed private tours are available with reservations.

At the Yorktown Victory Center, this year’s field crops are growing on a limited basis while a huge expansion and transition is underway at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The entire project, including a reconstructed and enhanced Revolution-period farm, will be complete late 2016, she says.

Useful herbs

Commonly-used herbs and medicinal plants in the 18th-century, according to Jamestown and Yorktown historical interpreters, include:

Rosemary: An ancient medicinal and culinary herb, rosemary is a Mediterranean shrub that found its way to America with early settlers. The plant has long been valued as a stimulant and tonic. It also “quickens a weak memory and the senses,” according to “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal,” originally published in the 17th century.

Cloves: Cloves are the unopened buds of the tropical clove tree, used medicinally and as a spice. The clove bud, when crushed, releases oil that is both anesthetic and antiseptic. It is used for toothaches and indigestion.

Oak gall: Caused by a gall-wasp puncturing the bark of the oak and laying eggs inside, galls are astringent and antiseptic.
“The white gall binds and dries,…yet is good against the dysentery and bloody flux,” also according to “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.”

Cayenne pepper: Native to tropical America and Africa, it was used medicinally as well as a seasoning. The oil from the peppers was used for salves and to help clear congestion. Modern Capsaicin, which contains capsicum, is from the peppers. It is rubbed on sore joints and muscles.

Tobacco: Grown primarily as a cash crop throughout the 17th and most of the 18th century. Tobacco was also used medicinally. The juice was used as a purgative. The juice was also used on insect stings and bites. The smoke was used for constipation.

Sassafras: This was one of the first native plants to be exported. Sassafras tea was used as a stimulant and antispasmodic; sassafras is the flavoring in root beer.

Mint: There are thought to be at least 30 species of mint, all of which have been highly valued for their medicinal properties since earliest times. By the 18th century, various species were used as a cure for colic and digestive odors.

Willow bark: The bark of the white willow contains salicin, from which acetylsalicylic acid is derived, the main ingredient in aspirin. Needless to say, willow bark was used for headaches or to lower fevers.

Vinegar: Made from apple cider. Many farms had a small apple orchard, and the primary use of the apples was for the making of cider. When the cider turned, it became vinegar, which was used as a preservative as well as medicinally. The benefits of a daily tablespoon of cider vinegar mixed with water are very much in today’s health news.

Herbs 101
_ Herbs need sun and well-drained soil.
_ Regular pruning and good air circulation around plants helps keep them healthy.
_ Herbs are easily dried by cutting and hanging them in bunches to dry in a cool, dark place; when the herbs easily crumble, store them in airtight containers.
_ Foliage on herbs can be cut into small pieces and placed in baggies to freeze for later use in dishes; herbs can also be frozen in ice cube trays and dropped into soups, sauces and stews.
_ Learn more about herbs with the American Herb Society at
(Kathy Van Mullekom is the garden/home columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. Follow her on Facebook@Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom, on Twitter @diggindirt and at Pinterest@digginin. Email her at


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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

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As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template

In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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Michael Carvajal

Photo by Tom Williams via Reuters

The search is on for a new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons after Michael Carvajal announced on January 5 that he’s retiring from his appointed post and will leave when the Department of Justice finds his replacement.

The Biden Administration needs to replace Carvajal with a person who knows prisons inside and out: someone who’s been incarcerated before.

When President Joe Biden announced his first round of cabinet picks just weeks after being elected in 2020, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said: “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America – that reflects the very best of our nation.

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