Beverley Scherberger

The only Writer / Editor you'll ever need.


feature story

A feature article is often used as the cover story in a magazine.


Feature articles are generally longer than press releases and go into more descriptive detail. They usually hold a prominent place (i.e. the feature) in a magazine and are often the lead cover story.

Written under the name: Beverly Dennis on March 1, 2002. This article appeared as the feature cover story in the April, 2002, issue of the Sedona Red Rock Review.

A Gem of a Show: Rocks, Dolls and Dinosaurs

Looking for something different to do? Well, listen up all you rockhounds and jewelry enthusiasts! On March 23 and 24, the Mingus Gem & Mineral Club and the Oak Creek Gem & Mineral Society will co-sponsor the Annual Verde Valley Gem & Mineral Show at Cottonwood’s Mingus Union High School gym. Several thousand visitors are expected between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Just a few of the exciting gem and mineral exhibits this year include a great black light display; dealers offering competitive prices on minerals, fossils, beads, gems, and jewelry; supplies for those of you involved (or interested in getting involved!) in the craft; demonstrations; hourly raffles for fantastic prizes; continuous silent auctions; and numerous displays by club members and invited special exhibitors. In addition, there will be a spinning wheel game to help keep the children entertained. Especially exciting is the extraordinary prize for this year’s Grand Raffle—a $2000 malachite specimen from the Congo, donated by Ramsey’s Gems & Minerals of Sedona.

Sculpture of a Dromeasaur.

Sculpture of a Dromeasaur.

The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Sedona sculptor Michael Trcic, and Mother Nature’s in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village joined forces to provide one of this year’s most dramatic exhibits. A ten-foot long, life-sized sculpture of a Dromeasaur—created by Trcic and on loan from Mother Nature’s—is similar to the small carnivorous dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park and is depicted in mid-leap, prior to landing on the skull of a Triceratops. Although the creature was just over 10 feet from nose to tip of tail, the fearsome predator’s long, muscular legs and huge claws enabled it to hunt down other dinosaurs many times its size. The skull—courtesy of the Arizona Science Center—is positioned with horns pointing directly at the attacking Dromeasaur. All in all, it is quite an impressive exhibit!

And as if that’s not enough, NASA, in conjunction with Northern Arizona University, will have an interesting, in-depth exhibit on the planet Mars, and the Grand Canyon State Woodcarvers, the El Valle Artists, and the Northern Arizona Porcelain Painter’s Guild will also be displaying and selling their work.

With all of this going on to amaze, entertain and tempt the adults, there will be gifts for the children, too. In fact, 36 exquisitely carved Russian nested dolls will be given out as prizes. Nested dolls are a far cry from today’s mass-produced Barbies, taking much talent and time to create each one. The first Russian nested doll was produced in 1890 in the Abramtsevo near Moscow in the Children’s Education workshop. They are called Matryoshka from the old Russian Matryona or Matriosha, a popular female name. The Latin root mater means Mother—Matryoshka was adopted as a symbolically appropriate name for the wooden figurines, each one smaller than the previous and nestling inside, one on another.

The woodcarving and painting process is complicated and involved, requiring much time and a high degree of skill. The artist carefully selects a lime or birch tree that is cut into logs and allowed to age and dry for several years. When the log is ready, it is cut into workable pieces. The artist takes no measurements—it is his intuitive skill and expert use of the turning lathe and tiny knives, chisels and tools that eventually fashion a doll from the wood. Hollowing out the center is done with as much precision as shaping the exterior so the dolls fit together precisely. At that point, the snow-white wooden dolls are ready to be cleaned, primed, and coated with a starchy glue, and finally painted to brightly colored perfection.

All things considered, this year’s show promises to be great fun and is actually four shows in one: Art, Porcelain Painting, Woodcarving, and, of course, the Gem show itself. The Annual Verde Valley Gem & Mineral Show is one of the best club-sponsored gem shows in the United States with the majority of admission fees benefiting the host’s Student Aid program. Last year, over $1000 donated from the show helped Mingus Union High School students who would not otherwise be able to participate in sanctioned school activities. Funds may be used to buy textbooks, sports uniforms, necessary medical and dental services, and other items and/or services for needy students.

Admission to this event is only $3 for adults; children under 12 and students 12 to 18 with a school ID get in free. You won’t want to miss this exciting event!


Written under the name: Beverly Dennis on February 3, 2010

Regina Campbell’s Vegetarian Table

Passionate and caring, energetic and gracious, Regina Campbell believes in the importance of being true to yourself. The producer, host, and chef of a nationally televised cooking show entitled Regina’s Vegetarian Table, she has spent most of her adult life on one TV studio or another.

Born in San Francisco, Regina has lived in several California cities over the years, including Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, certain that she disliked the desert too much to ever live in the Southwest. However, following a few brief visits to Arizona, she found herself absolutely awestruck by a VOC sunset—the pink and gold reflections on red rock were just too stunning to resist and she relocated to Sedona in January, 2000. Feeling more at home in Sedona than anywhere else she’s ever lived, Regina believes that “Sedona cracks you wide open and brings out your true essence. Here, you can’t hide who you are.” She then confessed that she’s always been a very private person, spending much of her time alone or with one or two close friends. Since moving to Sedona, though, she has found herself opening up and reaching out—she now teaches tango, has joined a meditation group, and is very involved in a variety of other community activities. But the road to Sedona was very convoluted.

Regina’s first television job came about as the result of a challenge from her husband. After a day on rock-strewn, barely ski-able trails, she had scoffed at a local TV report describing packed powder and fast slopes. Her husband goaded her to get a job reporting the truth about ski conditions—and she did, in spite of qualms about being in front of the camera. However, discovering a natural talent, she next became a sportscaster, later going on to NBC to co-anchor sports with Bryant Gumbel. She lived in Lake Tahoe and flew to New York City every weekend, a lifestyle many envied and admired. However, Regina didn’t like the way people in “the business” treated each other, hated all the running from coast to coast, and was generally disillusioned with her life. In addition, she loathed being cooped up in an office for hours on end and being away from her young son.

Out of the many dislikes, though, Regina discovered a deep love of producing. She became an independent producer, coined the term envireport, and began producing documentary-type shows that helped people understand the environmental implications of the household decisions they made regarding use of chemicals, cleaners, etc. With more knowledge, people could make wiser, healthier decisions for their families, children, and pets. Regina happily created her own hours, wrote her own scripts on subjects she believed in, car-pooled, and attended her son’s ballgames. In short, she was a happy, working mom.

By deciding to become independent and living in Sacramento to be near family, Regina had passed up some very lucrative opportunities in both Los Angeles and New York. At that point, she realized she had a love-hate relationship with television—she loved the wonderful things it could do but hated reporting bad news.

Eventually, Regina approached PBS with a proposal for a long-format documentary on the degradation of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Sierra in Peril. They liked the idea and Regina researched, wrote, directed and produced it, from beginning to end. A labor of love, it was a heart-touching environmental documentary that won Emmys and many other awards.

Regina Campbell's first book, "Regina Campbell's Vegetarian Table."

Regina Campbell’s first book, “Regina’s Vegetarian Table.”

Following that very successful first documentary, Regina anchored and hosted a variety of TV shows and, about that time, began writing a weekly column. Somewhere along the way, she had become a vegetarian and in her travels often had difficulty finding tasty vegetarian dishes in restaurants. Her column, Vegetarian Kitchen by Regina Campbell, featured many delicious, creative recipes that eventually became the basis for her first book, Regina’s Vegetarian Table.

With her background in television and her love of producing, it was a natural step to decide to take the vegetarian aspect to TV. Knowing that she surely wasn’t alone in her search for a wider variety of vegetarian meals, she wanted to offer the public fresh, fun, good-tasting vegetarian cuisine. No stranger to the process, she created a pilot and once again approached PBS. With her great reputation, awards, and experience, PBS agreed to do her show. Ordinarily, this would have resulted in a partnership, but in Regina’s case, she uses her own production team and delivers the show to PBS, who then airs it.

The show, also called Regina’s Vegetarian Table, is a half-hour show that is always shot in Regina’s home where she has total control and never has to wait for set availability. She has had all of her family, many of her friends, and her dog, Jeanie, on the show at one time or another and confesses that everyone loved the segment with her Dad and his Almond Brittle. She often invites other chefs onto her show or visits chefs in their kitchens. Segments have been shot featuring Sedona’s Dahl & DiLuca’s Italian Ristorante, Rene at Tlaquepaque, Heartline, L’Auberge, and the cobbler at Robert’s Creekside. Another successful venture, the show is entering its seventh season and is aired every day on satellite. If you can’t find it on your TV listing, call KAET in Phoenix to find out when it is airing next.

As if the television show doesn’t keep her busy enough, Regina’s second book will be out within the next six months. Titled Regina’s International Vegetarian Favorites, this book features recipes from thirteen regions of the world and includes everything from appetizers through the final beverage.

Regina loves her home, her family and friends, her show, and her life here in Sedona. And out of that contentedness comes the ideas for her third and fourth books. Always active and healthy, she is targeting primarily women with her third book, Kama Sutra Cookbook, which focuses on pampering ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually and is interwoven with healthy, beautiful recipes that can be enjoyed by women of any age. It will target all the phases of a woman’s life, her changing needs, various necessary supplements, and will include an entire chapter on a woman’s relationship with chocolate. When a woman is happy within and without, is vital and passionate, everyone around her benefits. Regina feels strongly about sharing this more holistic approach to life and believes that, eventually, it may even lead to a new TV show.

The fourth book, logically enough, will be the Kama Sutra Cookbook for Men. This one will be co-authored with a man very knowledgeable on many of the same subjects. Interestingly, the sources of much of the information Regina has collected for these last two books have been men. They are very excited about helping to create a happier world for their women who, in turn, will be happier and more contented with them.

All in all, Regina Campbell is a very busy, very happy woman who is being true to herself and wants to share her joy in life with others. Tune in to Regina’s Vegetarian Table, pick up one (or all!) of her books, and learn some of her exciting secrets.


Written under the name Beverley Scherberger in October, 2013.

Cats: How Do They Purr? Why Do They Purr? And What Does it Mean?

Playful kitty.

Playful kitty.

Cats are fascinating animals — lovable, cuddly, entertaining, and independent. They’re much easier to care for than dogs or other pets and can be just as loving and affectionate. And there’s something extremely intimate about a purring ball of fur curled up on your lap…

That purr is the most amazing thing… How do they do it? Why do they do it? And what is purring?

Since kittens are born both blind and deaf, the mother cat purrs to provide a physical sensation so the kittens can find her to nurse. A kitten is able to purr by the day after being born and although he can’t meow and nurse at the same time, he can purr and nurse. According to veterinarian Bruce Fogle, author of The Cat’s Mind, the original function of purring was to enable a kitten to communicate to his mother that things are well. Since mother and kitten purr to each other, they communicate “I’m okay, you’re okay” so everyone knows that things are fine.

As the kitten matures, however, the meaning of the purr changes. Cats purr to signal contentment or pleasure, but they also purr when frightened, distressed or in pain. Females purr while delivering their kittens. And cats frequently purr when close to death. This final purring can indicate either anxiety or euphoria, states that have also been described in terminally ill people.

Animal behaviorists believe that when a cat purrs under stressful conditions, it is reassuring or comforting itself, much like people who hum or sing to themselves when nervous or upset. Frightened felines may purr to communicate submissiveness or non-aggressive intentions to other cats.

A more recent theory about purring is that it is caused by the release of endorphins in the brain ~ Nature’s own morphine-like substances. Since endorphins are released under both painful and pleasurable circumstances, this would explain the seemingly ambiguous expression of purring.

In the past, scientists believed that cats had a special purring organ that created the rumbly sound or that the purr was produced from blood surging through the inferior vena cava of the heart. However, neither of those theories is correct. It is now believed that the purr actually originates in the brain with the impulse transmitted to nerves within the voice box. The nerve signals cause vibration of the vocal cords. Simultaneously, the diaphragm serves as a piston pump, pushing air in and out of the vibrating cords, producing the familiar musical hum. The purr is produced during the entire respiratory cycle ~ both inhaling and exhaling. Author of Feline Husbandry, veterinarian Neils C. Pederson, believes that purring is initiated from within the central nervous system and is a voluntary act. In other words, cats purr only when they want to.

Domestic cats and some wild cats, like pumas, mountain lions, bobcats, and cheetahs, are all able to purr. This ability, however, is limited to cats that can’t roar. Although some big cats (lion, leopard, jaguar) produce a purr-like sound, studies show that it is not really a purr as produced by domestic cats.

Interestingly, a study was performed to measure the domestic cat’s purrs and how purr vibration is spread throughout its body. As cat owners know, a kitty’s purr can be felt anywhere on the animal’s body, not just in the throat – vocal cord area. The world’s smallest accelerometer, ENDEVCO Model 22, was used for this test since it requires no external power and is ground isolated.

During tests, the cats relaxed on blankets and were encouraged to purr by petting and stroking them. Each recording session lasted between six and ten minutes.

Results indicated that despite size and genetic differences, all of the individual cats had strong purr frequencies that fell within the range of therapeutic frequencies and particular decibel levels. Frequencies of 25 and 50 Hz are the best, and 100 Hz and 200 Hz the second best frequencies for promoting bone strength. Exposure to these signals elevates bone strength by approximately 30% and increases healing speed of fractures.

All the cats had purr frequencies that correspond exactly with the best frequencies determined by the most recent research for bone growth, fracture healing, pain relief, and relief of breathlessness and inflammation. All of the cats’ purrs had frequencies 4 Hz from the entire repertoire of low frequencies known to be therapeutic for all of the ailments.

This could explain the purr’s natural selection ~ after a strenuous day or night of hunting and/or playing, the internal therapeutic kitty massage would keep muscles and ligaments in prime condition. The purr could also strengthen bone and prevent osteo-diseases. Following the infrequent injury, purring would help heal the wound or bone associated with the injury, reduce swelling, and provide pain relief during the healing process.

Relaxed and comfortable ~ purr...purr... purr...

Relaxed and comfortable ~ purr…purr… purr…

This research provides a scientific basis for the old wives’ tale that cat owners are not only happier, but healthier than people who do not own a cat. A purring ball of fur in your lap isn’t only pleasant and comforting, the purr could also be transmitting its healing abilities throughout your body.

But if you’re more of a Zen person than a scientific type, you could pooh-pooh all the evidence and argue that cats purr simply because they can. Purr on!


Written under the name: Beverley Scherberger in July of 2013 for the “Tubac Visitors Guide.”

Tubac’s Bloody 200-Year War

"Tubac's Bloody 200-Year War" by Beverley Scherberger.

“Tubac’s Bloody 200-Year War” by Beverley Scherberger.

Today, at the entrance to the city of Tubac, Arizona, four flags honor its various historical governing bodies: Spain, Mexico, the United States Confederacy, and America. Although present-day Tubac is internationally known as an artists’ colony, its ancient land once ran red with blood.

Hundreds of square miles of the Southwestern United States were home to the Apache, the Tohono O’odham, the Pima, and many other Indian tribes in the late 1600 to early 1700s. Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary, arrived in the Santa Cruz valley in 1691 and began converting the Pima. He built missions, ranches, and farms and later established the Tumacacori mission that served as the area’s religious center for many years.

Catholic priests, also interested in converting the native people, began filtering into the area in the early 1700s and encountered the nomadic, raiding Apaches and the agricultural, sedentary Tohono O’odham and Pima Indians.

About that same time, the Spanish arrived in the Santa Cruz valley and laid claim to the land. For fifty years, the Pima Indians were forced to labor on the farms, ranches, and mines of the invaders. Spanish treaties allowed mining and herding on native land and the cruel punishment meted out to the Pima created resentment that eventually grew into a deep-seated hatred.

By 1751, the Pima had had enough. The Pima Indian Revolt of Sunday, November 21, took the lives of several Jesuit fathers and over 100 other people. It was only when the Pima warriors were cornered in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson that the four-month-long rebellion ended.  In the years following the uprising, Spanish missions were established in Tubac, Tumacacori, and San Xavier and in 1752, Tubac became a presidio (fort) to protect the area. A 50-man garrison was formed and women and children soon arrived, creating the first European settlement in Arizona.

Tubac also became the staging area for exploring the northern parts of Arizona and California. Juan Bautista de Anza II, captain of the Tubac presidio, led several successful expeditions to colonize what is now known as San Francisco.

While Tubac was growing and undergoing its metamorphosis into a presidio, the Spanish realized they could not force the Apaches to work for them. Unlike the sedentary Pima Indians, land ownership was a foreign concept to the roving Apaches. By nature, they were an aggressive and proud people. And they didn’t take kindly to the Spanish building houses and forts and refusing them access to land they had freely used for many generations.

In addition, the Apaches coveted the Spaniard’s possessions, particularly, their more technologically advanced guns and household goods. Experts in guerrilla warfare and hand-to-hand combat, the Apaches did what they did best and took what they wanted from the settlers. In retribution, the Spanish then attacked the Apache camps and the bloody war between the two factions began.

In the early 1800s, the affluent Spanish government finally conceived of a way to placate the Apaches and lessen the fighting. They bribed the Indians with food and alcohol and greatly reduced the number and severity of skirmishes and bloodshed. For over 20 years, the bribes maintained an uneasy peace between the Spanish and the Apaches.

Then in 1821, the Spanish were ousted by the Mexicans. The Mexican government, however, was not as prosperous as the Spanish and could not afford to provide supplies to the Apaches. The relative peace came to an end as the Apaches began warring with the Mexicans. Blood again flowed freely in the land.

Meanwhile, President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico in his campaign to acquire additional lands for North America. The Mexican-American War lasted two years, 1846 – 1848. In the end, the U.S. gained all of California and Texas as well as parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. The part of Arizona that the U.S. gained as a result of the war did not include the southern portion encompassing Tubac.

So Mexico owned Tubac until 1848, during which the Apaches ran rampant, raiding settlements and taking whatever appealed to them. Except for the occasional revenge skirmish instigated by the Mexicans, the Apaches ruled. This was truly the wildest of the Wild West, with bad blood between the Indians, the settlers, the priests, and anyone else who ventured into the area. No one was off limits. No one was safe.

In 1853, James Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico, signed a treaty purchasing a huge tract of land from Mexico for the purpose of constructing a transcontinental railroad. The purchase included nearly 30,000 square miles of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico – lands south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande, including Tubac. The shape of the country changed dramatically.

This restructuring of the border between the U.S. and Mexico eventually had a profound effect upon the O’odham tribe since it nearly bisected their lands. According to the terms of the Gadsden Purchase, all legal rights of Mexican citizens, including the O’odham, were to be recognized and the O’odham on the U.S. side would have all the constitutional rights of any other United States citizen. Initially, the Purchase had little effect on the Indians since the new border was not strictly enforced. However, in recent years, tighter immigration laws have disrupted the traditional O’odham way of life by making it difficult, if not impossible, for the natives to make religious pilgrimages, visit sacred sites, maintain close contact with friends and family, or to collect traditional foods or other items regularly used in their culture. They are now required to produce a passport or border ID card in order to enter the U.S. The U.S.-Mexico border has become an artificial barrier to the freedom of the Tohono O’odham.

The O’odham have been divided into four distinct and federally recognized groups with the Tohono O’odham residing in southern Arizona.

Since the Gadsden Purchase had little initial effect on the people along the U.S.-Mexican border, from 1856 to 1861, the Southwest enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity. Tubac was then the largest city in Arizona and boasted an on-site army to help keep the peace. Money flowed liberally, new stores and shops opened, and the town’s residents enjoyed a calm and peaceful air. It was a welcome change after such a prolonged period of fear, danger, and bloodshed.

But the peace and quiet came to an abrupt end when the American Civil War began in 1861. All troops were called to serve in the war and once again, Tubac was left unprotected. No one gave much thought or concern to Tubac and the surrounding area with all eyes focused on the war between the North and the South.

The Apaches, unopposed, again waged war on the unprotected settlements. Geronimo, one of the most famous Apache chiefs, lost his wife and children to a warring band of Mexicans and he and his warriors wreaked havoc throughout the Southwest, avenging their deaths with blood. His hatred of Mexicans extended to anyone invading his land and he never wavered in his desire to rid the land of foreigners. His last raid before being defeated in Cochise County in 1886, was on Canyon Road near Tubac.

What finally brought peace to Tubac was not any one person or single cataclysmic event. Between Geronimo’s defeat and the great, ever-increasing flood of settlers and gold miners to the area, the Apaches realized they were outnumbered and had no place else to go. The fighting eventually stopped and the 200-year war came to an end.

Today, having put its violent and bloody past to rest, Tubac is eager to welcome artists, art collectors, and anyone else interested in visiting the place where “Art and History Meet.”


Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt in October of 2006

Another Sedona Herb Walk with Feather Jones

Feather Jones

Feather Jones, Clinical Herbalist

Last month, Sedona area resident Feather Jones, a Clinical Herbalist, led a group on a guided Herb Walk up Oak CreekCanyon and amazed us all with her knowledge of medicinal uses for many common plants. According to Feather, “Wild foods are the best thing you can do for your body.”

In an on-going effort to educate people on how to safely use common plants in a medicinal manner, she led a group on another guided Herb Walk on Sunday, October 22nd, —this time to an upper Sonoran Desert environment. With an entirely different set of plants from which to choose, she wowed us once again with her knowledge.

This time, the nine of us began our session at the Sugar Loaf Trailhead a short distance off Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona. The afternoon was warm and sunny, perfect for our guided foray into herbal medicine.

Stork's Bill

Stork’s Bill

Our first stop was at a plant called the Stork’s Bill (Erodium cicutarium), a low, prostrate plant consisting of a basal rosette whose leaves are divided into fine leaflets, similar to those of a carrot. A mature plant can be 2 to 3 feet in diameter although the ones we saw on our walk were much smaller. When in bloom, the flower stalks are erect, about 16 inches high, and bear small ½-inch pink or purplish clustered flowers. From the center of the flower column a long pointed capsule forms that resembles a stork’s bill, hence the name.

Medicinally, the whole plant is astringent and haemostatic. According to Feather, it is a uterine hemostat used to prevent and hasten healing in post partum bleeding. Additionally, the roots and leaves have been eaten by nursing mothers to increase the flow of milk. Externally, the plant can be soaked in water and used as a wash on animal bites and skin infections; a poultice of the root can be applied to sores and rashes. Leaves soaked in bath water help relieve the symptoms of rheumatism.

As a food, young Stork’s Bill leaves, harvested in the spring before the plants flower, are tasty and nutritious and may be added to salads, sandwiches, or soups.

The next plant on the tour was the Juniper (Juniperus). This shrub typically grows from four to six feet high, the trunk often contorted and twisted. The leaves are actually needles of a deep green color with a bluish tinge. The Juniper berries take two to three years to ripen so it is common to see both blue-black ripe berries alongside very green, under-ripe ones on the same bush. When fully ripe, the berries are about the size of a pea and are very aromatic.

Few aromatherapists are likely to lack juniper oil in their collection of essential oils. And since it has a balsamic, woody, fresh scent, it is prized as a masculine scent much utilized by the perfume industry in aftershave.

The leaves or needles are often dried, bundled, and burned as a smudge in sweat lodges where it has a cleansing, healing effect. The berries can be made into a tea used to treat cystitis, kidney problems, and urinary tract infections. Those with poor digestion, any type of stomach or digestive upsets, or constipation would benefit from juniper berry tea since it stimulates the digestive enzymes necessary to keep things moving along at a natural pace. It has also been used to ease muscular or joint pain in chronic conditions such as gout, arthritis, and rheumatism.

We then meandered along the trail with Feather in the lead, soon stopping at a small bushy plant with tiny, clustered, yellow flowers. We learned that this plant, with the unattractive-sounding names of Broom-of-the-Snake, Snakeweed, or Broom Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), is a sign of over-grazing. Since cows won’t eat it, it takes over once other vegetation is depleted. It is also known as Turpentine Weed because of the pine-like odor it exhibits when crushed.

Various tribes of American Indians utilized Broom Snakeweed in a medicinal manner. The Lakota and Shoshone used a decoction of the plant to treat colds and coughs; the Comanche used a compound of leaves to treat whooping cough; Blackfoot Indians would boil the roots and breathe the steam to treat respiratory difficulties while the Navajo used the plant to treat snakebites and the stings of ants, bees, and wasps.

Feather suggested grabbing a handful of stems and cutting them off several inches above ground level. Tie the bundle tightly with string and hang it just below the hot water spigot in the bathtub. Running hot water into the tub through the bundle provides bathwater infused with the essence of Snakeweed—soaking in such a bath provides a painkilling, anti-inflammatory treatment, reducing or preventing the need for drugs.

Our next stop was at the Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia) with its familiar flat, fleshy green pads and long spines. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions—water storage, photosynthesis and flower production.

Members of the Opuntia genus are unique because of their clusters of fine, hair-like, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. They are often difficult to see and even more difficult to remove once lodged in the skin, and are extremely irritating.

The fruits of most prickly pears are edible and jellies, juices, and candies are sold in many area stores. The pads of the Prickly Pear are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable, sold in stores under the name nopalito. Because of the glochids, great care is required when harvesting or preparing Prickly Pear cactus. Both fruits and pads of this cactus are rich in slowly-absorbed soluble fibers that help maintain blood sugar levels. For this reason, diabetics may find it useful in preventing the need for insulin.

Some studies have shown that the pectin contained in the Prickly Pear pulp lowers bad cholesterol levels while leaving the good cholesterol levels unchanged. This very versatile cactus is said to control blood sugar, cure acne, and soothe skin, and can also be used as arthritis medicine—as well as a conditioner for the hair.

Feather carefully cut off a Prickly Pear pad and, using a rock, scraped off the spines and tiny, barbed glochids. She then filleted it, slicing the pad in half lengthwise, exposing the moist, sticky interior. She explained that the Prickly Pear is even more efficient at treating burns and sunburns than aloe and will also remedy sties, fungus, poison ivy, staph infections, and nearly any and all skin irritations. The sticky goop pulls moisture and toxins from the tissues, allowing them to heal. This attractive cactus is evidently not just another pretty face!

Our group moved carefully away from this cactus only to stop by another type of prickly plant—the Cat Claw Bush (Acacia). It is also called the Wait-a-Minute Bush because anyone coming in close contact with it will call out “Wait a minute!” while they disengage their skin and clothing from the claws of the plant. The stout, brown to gray, quarter-inch curved thorns, scattered singly along the stems, give the plant its common name and afford protection to the birds and mammals seeking sanctuary within its branches. Two-inch spikes of fragrant cream-colored or pale yellow flowers occur mainly in spring but may bloom again with summer or fall rains. The fruit resembles a flattened string bean.

Feather explained that a tea made from the leaves of the Cat Claw Bush can soothe and protect the stomach, easing symptoms of ulcers, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel, and many other digestive ailments.

Mormon Tea

Mormon Tea

The next stop was at a very interestingly-named plant called Mormon Tea or Whorehouse Tea (Ephedra) that can be found all over the Southwest and Mexico. It is a broomlike shrub that grows up to four feet tall and has slender, jointed stems. It appears to have no leaves when, in fact, the leaves are reduced to scales and grow in opposite pairs or whorls of three. Male and female flowers bloom in March and April on separate plants in conelike structures; they are followed by small brown to black seeds.

Early Mormon settlers abstained from regular tea and coffee but drank the beverage made from this plant. A handful of green or dry stems and leaves were placed in boiling water for each cup of tea desired. It was removed from the fire and allowed to steep for at least twenty minutes. To bring out the full flavor, a spoonful of sugar or some strawberry jam was added, depending on individual taste.

A Jack Mormon, who frequented Katie’s Place, a popular whorehouse in Elko, Nevada, during the last century’s mining rush, is said to have introduced this tea to prevent contracting syphilis and other venereal diseases. Thereafter it was standard fare in the waiting rooms of Nevada and California brothels. Hence, the name Mormon or Whorehouse tea.

Indians prepared a tea from the plant to treat stomach and bowel disorders, for colds, fevers, and headaches. A poultice made from dried and powdered twigs eased burns; an ointment was used on sores. One tribe made a decoction of the entire plant and drank it to help stop bleeding.

Although not as potent as its commercial relatives in China and India, the southwestern species contains enough ephedrine-related alkaloid ingredients to make it functional. The drug ephedrine is a stimulant to the sympathetic nerves and has an adrenaline-like effect on the body. It has a pronounced diuretic and decongestant effect and was used whenever urinary tract problems occurred.

According to Feather, the plant contains silic acid which the human body converts to silica; it is then used to repair and strengthen connective tissue. Anyone who visits a chiropractor on a regular basis because the adjustment doesn’t hold might benefit from drinking Mormon Tea.

Feather also explained that Mormon Tea eases asthma and hay fever symptoms by opening the bronchioles and protecting the fragile membrane surrounding the lung’s alveoli.

At our next stop, Feather had us break off a leaf and crush it between our fingers. The scent was sweet, similar in a way to lavender, and we all wanted to carry some with us for the rest of the walk but that would have interfered with other plant tastings and smellings. The Mariola (Parthenium incanum) is a delicate-looking, exceedingly tough bush that grows throughout the Southwest and southward into Mexico. It is very drought tolerant and needs full sun. The aromatic leaves have a covering of silver-white hairs and during the summer, clusters of white flowers appear.

Since it has such a sweet scent, Mariola is often used as a smudge.

Feather explained, “All plants that contain aromatic properties have some antimicrobial activity.” So this one not only smells good, it helps eliminate nasty microorganisms that can cause disease.

Manzanita Bush

Manzanita Bush

The Manzanita (Arctostaphylos), next on our tour, is one of my personal favorites. These bushes/trees are characterized by attractive, smooth, orange or red bark and stiff, twisting branches. Manzanitas bloom in the winter to early spring and carry berries in spring and summer; the berries and flowers are edible, though not particularly tasty.

The wood is extremely dense and burns very hot. In fact, it is not recommended for use in woodburners—it burns so hot that it has been known to crack cast iron burners.

Native uses of the plant include collecting fresh berries and branch tips and soaking them in water to make a refreshing cider. When the bark curls off the branches, it can be used as a tea for nausea and upset stomach.

Feather says the plant is very astringent and is a great treatment for poison ivy. The tea or cider made from Manzanita is also good for treating urinary tract infections.

Our next specimen, the Desert Sumac (Rhus mycrophylla), automatically made me itch, however, Feather assured us that this sumac is not poisonous. It is a shrub commonly found in the lower Chihuahuan Desert and ranges across New Mexico and Arizona, providing shelter and food to many desert animals. The dense spikes of small, five-petaled, creamy white flowers give way to dense clusters of bright red drupes. In botany, a drupe is a type of fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp or skin and mesocarp or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. A peach is an example of a drupe. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Medicinally, the Desert Sumac is good for treating infections under the skin, the astringent action pulling infection and toxins out of the tissue.

As we neared the end of our Herb Walk, we approached a beautiful, blue-green century plant (Agave tequilana) with several smaller pups growing up around it. According to Wikipedia, “…the name Century Plant refers to the long time the plant takes to flower, although the number of years before flowering occurs depends on the vigor of the individual, the richness of the soil and the climate; during these years the plant is storing in its fleshy leaves the nourishment required for the effort of flowering.” Another name for this particular plant is the Blue Agave.

Agaves are succulents that grow mainly in Mexico, also occurring throughout the southwest and in central and tropical South America. They have a large rosette of thick, fleshy leaves that end in a very sharp point, the leaves seeming to spring centrally from the root. Each plant grows slowly and flowers only once; after development of the fruit, the original plant dies. During flowering a tall stem or mast sprouts up from the center of the rosette, growing furiously as though aware its days are numbered.

When the agave is twelve years old, Mexicans remove the heart and heat it to remove the sap, which is then fermented and distilled to make tequila. Only if made from the Blue Agave in the Tequila region of Mexico can the distillate be called Tequila. Other alcoholic drinks are also made from the agave, including numerous liqueurs—collectively known as elixir de agave. Some of these may even be limited-production, premium drinks. Others are sotol, bacanora, and, of course, mescal. Making bacanora was illegal in Mexico until 1992 when the government changed the laws.

According to Feather, used medicinally, the agave is a wonderful anti-inflammatory, effective in treating arthritis. She also told us that the agave is pollinated by a particular type of bat and since potent insecticides are still used quite freely in Mexico, the bats’ numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate. Eventually, without the pollination provided by the bats, agaves may eventually die out. Rather than use the agave in any way, Feather prefers to protect it.

Back at the Sugar Loaf Trailhead parking lot, Feather informed us that her next Herb Walk would be in the spring—hopefully, when the desert flowers are all bursting with color.


Feather Jones is a practicing Clinical Herbalist and land journey guide with over 20 years’ experience. She holds a certificate from the Santa Fe College of Natural Medicine as a Clinical Herbalist and has a part-time private practice. With a background in native tribal teachings, earth-centered herbalism infuses her teaching style.


Written under the name Beverly Lehnhardt in December of 2006.

Humane Society of Sedona: The Incredible Journey

In a past life I lived in the Midwest and was very active in volunteering at the local animal shelter in a variety of capacities; in fact, I was eventually voted onto the Board of Trustees. Knowing I was making a valuable difference in the lives and futures of the animals at the shelter provided me with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I’d found nowhere else.

Then my life changed and I found myself relocating to Sedona, Arizona. Again, drawn to the plight of helpless, hapless, homeless animals I decided to investigate the Humane Society of Sedona. Driving past 2115 Shelby Drive, I discovered what at first appeared to be a state of total chaos and confused construction. Were they open? Where to park? Would I find anyone inside if I located a way in?

I found a parking spot on the street and followed a pathway that led to a door marked with an arrow and followed obvious, logically-placed, additional signs to the Office. Impressed and amazed, I discovered that the shelter is, indeed, open for business-as-usual, accepting and adopting animals throughout their construction period. This shelter has had quite an incredible journey.

The original Humane Society of Sedona was established in the early ‘50s and was located on Soldiers Pass Road on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In July of 1966, the Society officially incorporated as Paw Prints, Humane Society of Sedona, Inc., a private, non-profit organization. At this time, animals were placed in foster homes since no physical shelter facility existed—just concern for the growing number of homeless cats and dogs.

Cheyenne, a lovable mix

Cheyenne, a lovable mix

In 1974, the Society built a shelter on the leased land; however, eleven years later in 1985 the BLM decided not to renew the lease and the Board of Trustees was forced to find another location. They purchased land and an old warehouse on Shelby Drive and converted it into a shelter, expanding in 1988 to accommodate a play area for the dogs.

As years passed and the growing need for space became ever more apparent, the lot adjacent to the shelter was purchased. In 1995, a six-kennel dog isolation area was added to help control the spread of diseases. Always looking for additional sources of income, the Humane Society leased a small building in the Village of Oak Creek (VOC) and opened the Paw Prints Gift Shop. In 2000, the lease expired, the building was sold, and the Board purchased land in VOC, building the current retail center for the Paw Prints Thrift Shop located at 6040 Hwy. 179 on the right just as you approach the first traffic light in VOC. It continues to be a reliable source of income for the Humane Society. They accept donations of clothing in good condition, household items, jewelry, books, and a variety of other treasures you can’t find anywhere else. Donations and volunteers are always welcome—call 928-284-4635 for more information.

In 2003, the Humane Society Board of Trustees began to make careful, long-range plans for a $3.5 million capital campaign to result in the construction of a new, modern, expanded animal shelter capable of housing nearly twice the number of animals as the current facility. Sedona and the VerdeValley continue to grow, as do the number of homeless animals. The new facility must, therefore, be able to accommodate the increasing numbers over the next fifteen to twenty years.

An adorable tortoise shell kitten.

An adorable tortoise shell kitten.

The future shelter will provide an environment that is both people- and animal-friendly, encouraging adoptions; the highly specialized HVAC systems will help keep the animals healthy; a veterinary and surgical center will provide space for on-site sterilization prior to adoption and routine as well as any necessary emergency vet care; and a large meeting/conference room with an after-hours entrance will allow for humane education, animal training, and volunteer orientation. Shelter Planners of America and the Architecture Company have designed an animal care campus that will benefit both the animals and citizens of our community.

“B” (Birgitte) Skielvig, Executive Director of the Humane Society, holds all the animals near and dear to her heart and the new facility is a dream come true—although maintaining business-as-usual throughout the actual construction is anything but a dream. But business continues to thrive, adoptions are steady, and morale at the shelter is high. Smiling volunteers, wagging tails, and frisky kittens attest to the fact that life is good—and will only get better once the move is made into the new, modern facility. If all goes well, they hope to open the new doors in July or August of 2007.

Currently, however, the Humane Society funding is only at the 50 percent mark of what is needed to complete this project. Monetary contributions to the building fund are always welcome and are tax-deductible. Gifts of $10,000 or more will receive an individual commemorative opportunity in the new facility. All other donors will be part of the new community donor wall.

There are many other ways to help, too: become a member of the Humane Society of Sedona; volunteer at the shelter or at Paw Prints Thrift Shop; foster dogs or cats in your home, opening valuable space at the shelter for other animals; adopt a cat or dog and give the gift of life to a homeless animal, receiving boundless love and companionship in return.

Maggie, a border collie mix.

Maggie, a border collie mix.

The current animal shelter has numerous on-going programs that benefit our community:

  • Provides shelter and care for homeless, abandoned and stray dogs and cats 365 days per year
  • Places adoptable animals into permanent homes through the Adoption program
  • Reunites lost pets with their guardians
  • Administers City “Return to Owner” impound program, City “Spay/Neuter” Program and the City dog-licensing program
  • Provides low-cost spay/neuter services
  • Provides an on-site Mobile Clinic to sterilize and administer low-cost vaccinations
  • Provides seniors with companion animals through “Pet Therapy” program
  • Visits assisted-living facilities through “Pet Therapy” program
  • Provides funding for emergency vet care through several programs
  • Provides KIND News to all elementary schools through Education programs
  • Provides obedience training to the public free of charge

The new, larger facility will implement even more educational and training programs.

December is Christmas for Critters Month at the Humane Society. During December, the traditional month for giving, the shelter encourages people to donate food, toys, and supplies for the homeless animals. The goal is to collect enough food and supplies to last at least six months. The animals do best on good quality food such as Iams or Pedigree; treats and toys are always needed; and kitty litter is in constant demand. Gift cards are a wonderfully easy way to donate, allowing the shelter to purchase what is most in need at the moment. When shopping for your own best friend, buy two and donate one item to the shelter. The dogs and cats wish you “Happy Holidays!”

The Humane Society of Sedona’s website,, provides browsers with weekly up-dated photographs of all adoptable animals at the shelter. In addition, you can visit and to locate a potential pet. To contact the shelter, call 928-282-4679 or you can e-mail B Skielvig at

To become a part of the on-going Incredible Journey, donate, volunteer, or adopt!



6 thoughts on “FEATURE ARTICLES

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